Council tax: Who should pay more?

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RESIDENTS are to decide who should face a hike in council tax following a cut in Government funding to discounts and benefit.

St Edmundsbury borough, Forest Heath, Mid Suffolk and Babergh district councils are conducting surveys to help decide where the costs of the new system should fall.

It follows the transfer of responsibility for council tax support from the Government to local authorities - coupled with a 10 per cent cut in benefit funding from next April.

As part of the the consultations, which close on October 26, people are asked to rank the following four options in order of preference:

n Reducing the discount to those who are not working but who are of working age and available to work;

n Removing the discount available to owners of second homes;

n Removing the discount available to owners of empty homes;

n End the second adult rebate, which currently sees claimants whose income is too high to receive coucil tax benefit - but have other adults living with them whose income is low - receiving a discount of up to 25 per cent.

The move has prompted concerns from bosses at Suffolk West Citizens Advice Bureau, who say it is one of many benefit cuts hitting people’s pockets. Chief officer Jane Ballard said: “I would want to see more safeguards for the people of working age having to pay more. You’re not looking at this in isolation - a lot of people are going to have benefit reductions next year.”

Cllrs Stephen Edwards and Dave Ray, cabinet members for resources at Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury, said: “It’s up to us to see that this burden is shared fairly.”

Cllr Derrick Haley, portfolio holder for finance at Mid Suffolk, said: “Some of our poorest communities are suffering already and we want to do all we can to protect them.”