Labour members of Daventry District Council have criticised changes to benefits which could cut £34,000 from the bill.
Last Thursday DDC passed measures to alter its council tax reduction scheme for in work claimants.
The scheme is the modern replacement for council tax benefit, and reduces the bills faced by people facing financial hardship who meet certain criteria.
The changes passed on Thursday will only apply to new claims
Local Labour members said the changes are ‘miserly’ and ‘lacking in compassion’
“Our Conservative councillors simply don’t understand the problems that many people in Daventry are facing,” said Cllr Wendy Randall, leader of the Labour group on DDC.
“Many households are already suffering from cuts in benefits, and it is quite appalling that DDC is adding to their difficulties.
“Claimants under this scheme are people who have real problems in making ends meet, and reducing the benefits for new claimants is going to make things even harder for them.”
Reductions schemes are set locally by councils, and here is no requirement to provide one at all.
The reduction scheme level has not changed – people will still be expected to pay at least 20 per cent of their council tax bill.
However, other criteria will be altered, including reducing the backdating of new claims to one month; removing the family premium for all new working age applicants; withdrawing council tax reductions where a person leaves Great Britain for four weeks or more; limiting the number of dependent children to a maximum of two; and removing the employment and support allowance work related activity component.
These changes would bring the scheme into line with criteria applied to housing benefit claims.
In a public consultation on the proposals this option was the only one backed by a majority (55 per cent).
While figures on the financial impact are hard to guess due to the changes applying only to future claims, it is thought the measure would see an extra £34,000 a year paid to DDC via council tax.
DDC’s own assessment says without any changes to the current scheme, costs would rise by £34,000, so the changes would not overall save money.
Labour councillors pointed out that DDC has found it possible to budget around £90,000 for a new bike shelter, a sailing club and to bring the start of a women’s cycle race to Daventry, but not to provide help to those in need.
Cllr Ken Ritchie said: “What DDC will save through these changes amounts to only one penny a week for every resident in the district, but even a penny a week was too much our Conservative councillors, not one of whom voted against the proposal.
“We are approaching Christmas – a time when our thoughts should be with the less fortunate in our society – but DDC has decided to play the role of Scrooge. This decision is disgraceful, and at this time of year it brings shame on DDC.”