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Council tax shock for 27,000 of East Lancashire's poorest residents
UP to 27,000 of the poorest residents in East Lancashire will have to pay a council tax bill for the first time from April.
A change in Government rules means people who have previously qualified for a full discount will now have to find more than £4.5 million between them.
In the coming months they will be sent bills of between £69 and £200.
One leading councillor has warned that many people, both in and out of work, are going to find it ‘very hard to find this money which they just don’t have’.
And some experts have predicted four out of ten will be unable or unwilling to pay, saying it will have as big an effect as the poll tax.
At the same time around 90 per cent of the 270,000 householders in the area will see their bills for borough, Lancashire county, police and fire services rise by a tiny amount, as most local authorities seek to freeze council tax.
Pendle Tory MP Andrew Stephenson also said it was right that everyone paid something towards council services The change is because responsibility for paying council tax benefit has been transferred from the Department of Work and Pensions to borough councils who have been ordered to cut the total bill for discounted council tax.
Pensioners and some groups of vulnerable adults have been protected from any increase, but working age claimants will be forced to pay.
Pendle, Blackburn-with-Darwen and Hyndburn councils are to charge those of working age not in the vulnerable groups 20 per cent of their bills for the first time.
Burnley, Ribble Valley and Rossendale are to use a combination of reserves and extra government grant to limit the new bill to 8.5 per cent of the total Band A charge.
Chorley will charge seven per cent.
All seven district councils hope to freeze their council tax charges as does Lancashire county. The charge for police of £150 is set to rise by two per cent. The Fire Authority has yet to indicate its intentions.
- Pendle borough has opted for 20 per cent of their Band A council tax of at least £1,041.50 - more than £208. This will raise £720,000.
- Burnley will impose a new 8.5 per cent charge on 5,000 residents now getting the full Band A council tax of £1,052.67 paid. They will have to pay £89.42, raising £450,000.
- Rossendale will ask 2,550 claimants to find £89.25, 8.5 per cent of the Band A charge of £1,050.18 raising £225,000 income.
- Blackburn with Darwen will charge £197 a year; Hyndburn £206.80; Ribble Valley £83.95 and Chorley £69.
There will be small exceptional hardship payments for the very poorest.
Mohammed Iqbal, Labour group leader on Pendle Council, said: “This is going to hit a lot of people very hard.
“While we are hoping to freeze council tax for most residents in our borough, 4,483 are going to see a massive increase from nothing to more than £200.
“These are some of the poorest people in Pendle who have been protected and will have to pay council tax for the first time.”
Pendle Tory MP Andrew Stephenson said: “Whilst some people will find this new charge difficult to pay, it is entirely right that all people should pay something towards the services they receive from their local authorities. Pendle and other councils are putting in place exceptional hardships schemes to help the poorest people with these bills.”
Burnley Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “This is going to be hard for some people. When the Liberal Democrats were in charge of the borough we put money aside so no-one on full council tax benefit would have to pay. When Labour took over they spent the money on other things.”
Burnley borough resources chief councillor Mark Townsend said: “We are trying to do what we can to minimise any hardship but at the same time ensuring a fair and affordable council tax for everyone.”
Blackburn with Darwen Borough resources chief Coun Andy Kay said: “This change in council tax benefit will have as big an effect on the borough’s poorest residents as the poll tax. It may be very difficult to collect the money.”