Kirklees councillors approve cuts to council tax benefit

BENEFIT claimants will have the amount of support they get for council tax cut by almost a third.

While some council tax benefit claimants will be protected from proposed cuts, others will see payments cut by 29 per cent.

The scheme was given the go-ahead during a full meeting of Kirklees Council on Wednesday evening.

It followed a reluctant recommendation from Cabinet members who were critical of government policy when they met on Tuesday.

They described a government grant to help councils make smaller cuts as “a con”.

Cuts in government funding mean Kirklees has to reduce the amount of money it spends on council tax benefit by 10 per cent.

But under its new council tax support scheme, the council must not reduce payments to vulnerable groups.

Those includes pensioners, single parents with a child under five, those on disability benefits and people who get war pensions or war widow’s pensions.

Protecting this groups means a 10 per cent funding shortfall must be met by cutting support to everyone else by 29 per cent.

Coun Shabir Pandor, cabinet member for resources, said: “The Secretary of State has put us in a situation where we have no choice but to make these cuts.”

After Kirklees put together its scheme last year, the government announced a £100m grant to help local authorities reduce the size of the council tax benefit cuts they will have to make.

Kirklees could get £770,695 if it applied – but only on the condition that it did not cut council tax benefits by more than 8.5 per cent.

A report if Kirklees only cut benefits by 8.5 per cent instead of 29 per cent, it would have a £1.1m shortfall– even with the government grant.

And if Kirklees got the grant but did not cut benefits at all, there would be a shortfall of £2.2m and more cuts to services.

“The bottom line is it’s a con,” Coun Pandor (Lab, Batley West) said.

The council voted to cut support without applying for the grant.

During Wednesday’s meeting Kirklees Liberal Democrats asked the council to commit £1m to an anti-poverty fund to help families cope with the benefit cuts.

Coun Andrew Marchington (Golcar) said: “We are convinced that there are going to be a great number of working families affected by this who shouldn’t be and that something needs to be put in place to help.”

Coun David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) said there no need to commit £1m from council budgets to such a fund at this stage.

He said there was already government money available, and the council could always add to that later.

The proposals for a fund was rejected by the majority of councillors.