'Difficult choices have to be made': Havering councillors vote on changes to council tax support scheme
PUBLISHED: 15:00 24 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:07 24 January 2019
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Councillors debated plans to increase council tax for those who claim unemployment or disability benefits at a full council meeting last night (Wednesday, January 23).
Havering Council’s 2019/20 budget proposals include plans to raise council tax by 10per cent for those who are on the council tax support scheme.
This will mean that those on unemployment and disability benefits will pay 25pc of their council tax instead of 15pc.
The Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Associations Group submitted a motion for the scheme to remain unchanged in 2019.
Leader of the Council, councillor Damian White kicked off the debate.
He said: “Difficult choices have to be made.
“It’s not one that we sought to do lightly, but it does form the foundations for the sustainable, stable medium term strategy which we must put in place if we are to rise to the challenge of balancing the budget.”
Cllr White explained that in nearby areas of Essex such as Thurrock, Basildon and Southend, residents pay 25pc.
Cllr Clarence Barrett raised the issue that while the council’s consultation letter about the changes went out to 8,908 households, only 140 households - 1.6pc - responded.
He said: “Whilst I recognise that difficult decisions have to made to balance the budget on an annual basis, I also recognise that those who are among the poorest and most vulnerable in our community also have to make difficult decisions to make their books balance.”
Cllr Jason Frost pointed out that there are alternative systems in place to support people who use the council tax support scheme.
“This debate assumes that those who are in need of support will forever remain in need of support,” said Cllr Frost.
“We’re not just simply going to sit by and watch these individuals suffer.”
The Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Associations Group’s amendment did not carry with 24 votes in favour and 28 against.
Cllr Barrett told the Recorder he was disappointed that, “Havering will be moving away from the London average of 15pc.
“These proposals will make 9,000 households worse off, and with multiple occupants that is around 30,000 residents.
“Add in the adverse impact of Universal Credit and the growth of food banks, the picture becomes even worse.”