COUNCILLORS have unanimously backed plans that will see hard-pressed families pay more towards their council tax bills.
During a meeting of the full council last night, Hartlepool borough councillors rubber-stamped a 12 per cent cut in the support it gives for help with council tax bills in 2014-15. There are also plans to increase the cut to 20 per cent in 2015-16.
But the council’s leader, Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, said the local authority had done well not to make bigger cuts, given that other councils in Tees Valley had already raised their level of axed funds to 20 per cent.
He told the Mail: “I think this council is in a really good position. We are able to lower the payment of council tax for our low-income families to 12 per cent. When you look around the region most people are paying 20 per cent.
“We are doing our utmost, even though we are facing significant financial challenges, to protect these low-income households who are being hardest-hit by the welfare reforms.”
Around 8,500 homes will be affected by the changes, which will see the council ask for up to £10 extra a month from cash-strapped homes.
For those in a Band A property, their bills will rise from £95 this year to £135 from April and up to £225 in 2015-16.
For those eligible residents in a Band B home, their bills will rise from £111 this year to £157 from April.
Then in 2015-16 they would be paying £262 a year with the planned 20 per cent cut.
As part of changes introduced last April, the Government cut national funding by 10 per cent.
But in Hartlepool the actual cut was 13 per cent.
Last year, the full council approved a Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) scheme which limited the cut in support for low-income working age households to 8.5 per cent.
But this was only achieved using one-off resources previously set aside to manage the change and it was acknowledged that higher cuts would be needed in future years.
Coun Akers-Belcher told the meeting: “The finance and policy committee is concerned about the impact of reducing LCTS support on working age-households, many in low paid work.
“These households face many other pressures on their household budgets, including other benefit cuts and higher energy costs.”