A PIONEERING plan to protect pensioners from council tax increases has been unveiled by Kirklees councillors.
Pensioners will face a freeze while everyone else will have to fork out around 3% more. Kirklees Council, run by a Tory cabinet, is believed to be the first in England to come up with such a scheme.
Cabinet councillors want to introduce the new policy in time to affect council tax bills next year.
Council leader Clr Robert Light said: "Since the early 1990s, the council tax has increased by 100%, while the state pension has gone up 50% and occupational pensions by less than 40%.
"It is quite clear that council tax increases have had a serious impact on older people on fixed incomes.
"The council tax reduction scheme will cushion a large group of people from the full extent of increases."
The reductions will be for householders aged over 65 who do not receive council tax benefit.
An estimated 20,000 households could be helped.
Clr Light said: "While the council tax itself will not be finalised until February, we are working on a strategy of pegging the increase for everyone to a maximum of 3%.
"The council tax reduction plan is for a 3% reduction for householders aged over 65 - around £30 on average.
"In effect that will mean- to within a few pence -- a council tax freeze for those who apply and qualify for the over 65s householders' scheme.
"Given that we are working to a maximum 3% council tax increase, rather than the 5% of the last few years, it will also mean the council tax increase for everyone will, on average, be £20 lower than it otherwise would have been under the previous budget strategies."
Eligible pensioners would need to apply by completing a form that will be available from December 1.
But Clr Light added that quite a lot of the over-65s could be better off by applying for council tax benefit.
He said: "As with other benefits, there are many people who qualify for council tax benefit, but do not apply for it.
"People will be invited to ask for more information about their entitlement to other benefits when they apply for the discount."