OAPs hit hardest by council tax in East
PENSIONERS in East Anglia have struggled with the highest council tax rises in the country over the last 10 years, a new report reveals.While the charge for council services in the region has soared by 104% since 1996/97, during the same period the average income for a retired couple has only increased by 27%.
PENSIONERS in East Anglia have struggled with the highest council tax rises in the country over the last 10 years, a new report reveals.
While the charge for council services in the region has soared by 104% since 1996/97, during the same period the average income for a retired couple has only increased by 27%.
The report, by independent financial advisers Key Retirement Solutions, shows pensioners living in the East of England are now paying 5% of their income on the charge.
The rise in their council tax bills has also outstripped inflation over the decade, with the Retail Price Index increasing at just 29%.
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Reg Hartles, chairman of Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk, said retired people were being “taxed out of existence”.
“The basic problem is relating council tax to property values, which is such an arbitrary way of assessing wealth,” he added.
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“A lot of elderly people's only wealth is property: they have little state pension but they are lucky to have a family home.”
Unsurprisingly, 86% of pensioners say council tax is the bill they most resent having to spend their retirement income on, the report says.
But Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said the report's figure for the average income of a pensioner couple in the east, £22,501, could be far higher than most people were receiving.
For the basic state pension for a couple is only £6,822 and for a single person it is only £4,267.
She called on the Government to “drastically change” the council tax system, so better allowances are given to retired people, as well as drive through a reform of pensions so elderly people can at least afford the essentials.
She said pensioners were being “disproportionately hit” as they would never receive the increases they need to meet the rising cost of living, particularly with soaring water and energy bills.
“This is a huge problem and seeing it laid out here in this form really hits you. Pensioners who have experienced it have had the misery of not having enough to make ends meet and having to make hard choices,” she said.
“It can get as close as having to choose between heating and eating sometimes.”
Dean Mirfin, business development director at Key Retirement Solutions, said: “This is a huge increase and a real frustration to many people who don't feel that they are seeing value for money when it comes to their council tax bills.
“With the state increasingly putting the onus on individuals to make sufficient provision for their retirement, this research really highlights the importance of saving for this goal.”
Any pensioner needing help with their bills should contact Age Concern Suffolk's benefit helpline on 01449 674222.
A B C D E F
East of England £604 £1,232 104% £22,501 5%
England £646 £1,268 96% £21,668 6%
B Average band D council tax - 1996/1997
C Average band D council tax - 2005/2006
D Percentage increase over 10 years
E Average pensioner couple income 2005/2006
F Percentage of pensioner couple income used to pay council tax 2006/2007