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Benefit claimants ‘will be hit harder’ in Craven
10:00am Friday 24th August 2012 in News
Craven benefit claimants are likely to suffer because of the area’s high number of pensioners.
Council tax benefit is currently funded by central government, but administered by Craven District Council.
But from next year, it is set to change, with Craven becoming responsible for devising its own council tax support scheme.
Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton (Cons), leader of Craven District Council, warned councillors that the authority was likely to be labelled insensitive through no fault of its own.
The money currently available is to be cut by at least ten per cent – and more than 12 per cent in Craven – or up to £450,000.
Pensioners will be the only ones whose benefits will be protected at existing levels.
And because Craven’s elderly population is said to be the highest in the country, the district is set to face a disproportionately higher cut.
Coun Knowles-Fitton said the council was effectively facing a postcode penalty.
“Craven has the highest proportion of pensioners in the country and so, because the proposed new arrangements protect pensioners’ existing levels of benefit, the remainder receiving council tax benefits will, under this new regime, bear a disproportionately high level of cuts in their future benefit payments,” he said.
“This is nothing less than a postcode penalty and, as such, is inequitable and grossly unfair.
“I’ve written to our MP Julian Smith who is taking it up with the Secretary of State and I await the outcome of those discussions.”
Coun Knowles-Fitton told the full meeting of the council that it was likely to face criticism.
“By passing on all the cuts to those who can best be described as the ‘working poor’ we help protect services for the rest of the community, but run the risk of being labelled insensitive and mean to those who will suffer most,” he said.
“In pursuit of the government’s quite laudable efforts to encourage those of working age to look for work rather than live on benefits, this cut in council tax support may actually have that desired effect, but it is clear that there will be some who will unfairly suffer to an even greater degree, merely by virtue of living in Craven.”