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Worcester households facing loss of benefits
PLANS to drastically cut council tax benefits in Worcester have been backed by politicians – who admit they were faced with an unpalatable choice.
From April next year hundreds of households across the city will be asked to pay more towards their council tax in a £121,000 cull.
The city council’s Labour cabinet, which agreed for the measures to go out for consultation last week, said it was in a difficult situation.
Councillor Richard Boorn, the cabinet member for finance, said: “We have to make these savings – we’ve got no choice in that.
“We have tried our utmost to protect the most vulnerable people in all this, which I believe is children.”
Fellow cabinet member Matthew Lamb, who is responsible for cleaner and greener, said: “Politics is about difficult decisions and unpalatable choices and this is one of those.
“Means testing can be seen as demeaning, but when resources are scarce we’ve got to go for the fairest changes we can in what is an impossible situation.”
Under the new system, options that would have hit some of the poorest in the city have been ruled out, but others will remain.
From April, people who have savings, stocks or shares of £6,000 or more will be excluded from making a claim.
The second adult rebate, where a single person who shares a property with a low-income earner can claim a discount, is also being stopped.
And all payments of less than £5 a week are coming to an end, as is the option of making a back-dated claim.
Previous proposals to take into account child maintenance payments, or make all discount holders pay something towards their bill regardless of income, have been scrapped.
At the moment the city council spends £6.7 million offering discounts to 5,000 households on their monthly council tax bill, but the Government is slashing the grant, meaning there must be cuts.
As part of the changes a new £30,000 hardship fund is being launched so the most vulnerable householders can make a claim for help.
Coun Boorn said: “We do appreciate there will be hardship, which is why we’ve decided to include this fund.”
The new rules will now go out for one final period of consultation.
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