THERE’S an almighty row brewing at Kirklees Council – and it relates to cuts to Council Tax Support.
Every local authority needs to bring in its own Council Tax Support scheme for working-age residents.
Government funding will be reduced by 10% nationally – around £470million – compared to funding for the current Council Tax Benefit scheme.
Support for pensioners remains unchanged, which means Kirklees Council has to find the shortfall or make cuts to support for working age residents.
The Kirklees shortfall is approximately £3.2 million.
Kirklees plans include:
Introducing a 29% cut in council tax support for 21,598 working age people.
Removing the second adult rebate for all groups.
But the Kirklees Liberal Democrats say the area’s Labour Party is seeking to punish poorer people.
Council leader, Labour’s Clr Mehboob Khan, said it was the Tory government’s ‘Poll Tax’ of today.
The Tories say the Labour Party can access government money, while the group of Independents described it as a “dog’s breakfast”.
Clr Khan, said: “The first thing to stress is that this council, along with many others, has been given some very tough decisions due to legislation forced upon us by the government.
“The cut in Council Tax Benefit is imposed by central government and we are making these choices reluctantly.
“At the same time, whilst we may not like the position we are in, we also have to give due consideration to the long and short-term consequences of different options.
“When the council held an extensive consultation on how to deal with this issue, feedback showed that people were strongly in favour of the cut being passed directly to those who are affected.
“The proposal is backed by local taxpayers and we are also working hard to protect the most vulnerable groups, such as people with a serious disability and those on a war pension or war widow’s pension.
“There was also a high level of agreement (84%) with the intention that the new scheme should help make work attractive for those who are available to work.
“The alternative is to cut council services at a time when our budget is already being severely and disproportionately hit by central government.”
Lib Dem leader, Clr Kath Pinnock, believes the Cabinet has missed a trick, saying: “Over the last 12 months we have made the argument that Labour should be using empty homes powers to avoid cutting people’s council tax benefit.
“It is a real option that Bradford, Calderdale and other councils are using but Labour in Kirklees have been dead set on cutting people’s council tax benefit.”
The Lib Dems say the council could apply to receive the Government’s one-off transitional grant, which would be £770,6945 for Kirklees.
What the party leaders think the best action is...
Clr Robert Light , Conservative Party leader, said: "There is more Kirklees Cabinet can do; they can take the government money which means it will lessen the impact on hard-working Kirklees residents.
"There is no doubt that certain local authorities are deliberately trying to increase the impact of these changes by making schemes worse than they need to be for hard working families."
Asked if Kirklees was one of those, Clr Light responded: "I certainly hope Kirklees won’t be one of them. Until we see the final plans in January we won’t know for certain."
Clr Mehboob Khan , Labour, and leader of Kirklees Council said: "The government money isn’t for the full amount.
"The empty homes money has to go back into council funds for spending on roads, social care, jobs and growth. If we took the money for Council Tax Support we lose money in those areas.
"We understand what we have to do but in the future years this is going to become the Tories’ Poll Tax of this age.
"This is the only benefit which is being localised."
Clr Andrew Cooper , Green leader and head of The Valley Independents, said: "I think it is a crazy idea that different parts of the country will have council tax schemes. There is going to be no common system of council tax.
"The government is creating a complete dog’s breakfast of a system for dealing with council tax and it is going to mean that some people, particularly on low incomes, will pay more."
"As much as the Lib Dems have an issue with it they need to recognise they are part of the government which is bringing this in. They can’t face both ways."
Clr Kath Pinnock , Lib Dem leader, said a lone parent working up to 24 hours a week with two children over the age of five will have to pay an extra £200 per year/£16.50 a month.
A couple with two children, where one parent works 30 hours a week, will pay £611.29 per year, up from £417.14. A couple with children, one of whom works but is in receipt of some disability allowance, will pay an additional £316.11 per year.
Clr Pinnock added: "These aren’t people who are refusing to work, they are people who are working as much as they can but don’t have jobs that pay enough".