PLANS to change a council tax discount scheme which could hit some of the most vulnerable in society have been approved by Malvern Hills District Council just weeks after they were narrowly rejected.
The changes, which will save £40,000 a year, are needed because the government abolished Council Tax Benefit a year ago, leaving local authorities to pay for discounts.
Coun Sheila Young said at a council meeting this week: “This council’s proposed discount scheme will in fact have a significant adverse impact on the living, environmental and economic conditions of the most vulnerable communities in the district.”
The changes include counting child benefit and maintenance payments as part of claimants’ incomes, capping payments to claimants with £6,000 or more in savings, stopping payments of £10 per week or less, and stopping backdated payments.
However, the proposal also includes establishing a hardship fund of £25,000 to help people in genuine need.
Coun Paul Cumming, the finance portfolio holder, said the council has to find savings because of increasing pressure on budgets. “Most of the efficiency savings that can be made have been made and we will soon be in the position of having to cut services,” he said.
But he said the council should expect Worcestershire County Council to help out by doubling the hardship fund to £50,000.
Council leader David Hughes seconded the motion, and Lib Dem leader Tom Wells said he would vote for it but the impact of the changes should be carefully scrutinised.
The scheme originally came up before councillors in December, but they turned it down it by a vote of 16-15. They then agreed to revisit the idea after getting a special briefing on the scheme and its impact.
The briefing was held on Tuesday afternoon (January 8) before a specially-arranged meeting the same evening. And this time the scheme was approved 20-11 with three abstentions.
After the vote was taken, coun Mike Morgan, who chairs the overview and scrutiny committee, said he will make sure that it will study the impact of the changes.