Smaller tax bill for OAPs ruled out

By Jonathan BarnesA COUNTY council has ruled out restricting Council Tax rises for pensioners because it "would only benefit one age group". Other county councils in England are thought to be considering such a plan after Kent County Council got the go-ahead to tie OAPs' Council Tax increases to the rate of inflation.

By Jonathan Barnes

A COUNTY council has ruled out restricting Council Tax rises for pensioners because it "would only benefit one age group".

Other county councils in England are thought to be considering such a plan after Kent County Council got the go-ahead to tie OAPs' Council Tax increases to the rate of inflation.

But Suffolk County Council has dismissed adopting the scheme, saying it would unfairly hit poorer people of all ages by making them pay more Council Tax.


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If the plan is adopted in Kent, rises in pensioners' bills would be tied at about 2.5%, while everyone else would pay 1.3% more to help pay for those aged over 65.

Pensioners across the country have protested furiously against this year's record rises – in Suffolk it was 18.5% – and claimed they would rather go to jail than pay.

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But David Rowe, deputy leader of the Suffolk County Council, said: "We have called for any changes to Council Tax to address the difficulties experienced by people on low and fixed incomes – this would include some pensioners, but also other very genuine cases.

"At the end of the day the same amount of money has to be raised and the Kent scheme simply benefits one age group and makes others, including young families who may be struggling with a mortgage, pay more."

Mr Rowe felt a better scheme would be to look at means rather than age and said: "This would include a lot of pensioners, but not all.

"Protest groups in Suffolk have always made it clear they don't just represent pensioners, but all those on fixed incomes who may struggle to pay a high increase.

"What we need is a fair scheme across the country that addresses the issues of those on low and low fixed incomes, not one that simply gives benefit to people entirely on age regardless of their ability to pay."

But Norfolk County Council leader Alison King said she had asked its accountants to see if a similar plan could work in the county.

"I am definitely interested. There had been some doubt over whether this was something councils could legally do, but now the Government has said we can," she added.

Reg Hartles, chairman of the Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk group, agreed the scheme favoured by Kent was "not a good idea". He added: "We're not keen on that at all – it's helping one group at the expense of others."

His group has collected more than 4,000 signatures on petitions opposing the rises and held a number of protests, including one in Felixstowe on Saturday.

"We are keeping it on the boil and making sure it's not forgotten how badly we have been treated this year," said Mr Hartles.

The group is calling for no increase in next year's Council Tax bills, but Mr Hartles said a more realistic target was a rate-of-inflation increase.

n What do you think of the idea to charge pensioners less for their Council Tax? Write to the Editor with your views.

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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