A SENIOR Basingstoke and Deane councillor has suggested that families facing council tax benefit cuts will need to budget better.
Councillor Hayley Eachus, Cabinet member for community services, was responding to claims by Labour councillor Paul Harvey that working families will be forced to find hundreds of pounds when cuts to state benefits come into force from next April.
Cllr Harvey said: “Can I ask you to justify for me – and this is a moral issue – a £440 cut, or rise in council tax to a family that is working? Where are you expecting people to find it? These are working people.”
In response, Cllr Eachus, said: “I think it’s just about encouraging people to budget, and there will be assistance from groups like the CAB to do that.”
The comment, at an economic prosperity and performance committee meeting, came as councillors were discussing slashing council tax benefit given to people on low incomes.
It is proposed that from April next year, council tax benefit support will decrease by 30 per cent over three years.
If agreed, the change will be phased in, with an 8.5 per cent reduction from April 2013, rising to 20 per cent the next year, and then 30 per cent from April 2015.
The change would affect 3,300 claimants in the borough – 57 per cent of the total number of people receiving council tax benefit support.
People on disabled benefits, or carers’ allowances, as well as council tax support claimants with children under five will be exempt from the cuts.
A report to the committee estimates that a couple with two children earning less than £12,000 a year could lose up to £157 a year in council tax support by April 2015.
Cllr Eachus, left, who represents Kempshott, said the phased reduction in support will allow the council to review the effects the change has on residents, and she insisted that the most vulnerable will remain protected.
“We are looking at phasing it,” she said. “And we are keeping it as small as we can, and protecting the most vulnerable – the carers, the disabled, the pensioners, and those with children under five.”
A majority of the committee voted in favour of the scheme, and the 60-strong full council will vote in January on whether to implement the three-year plan.