Tendring: Council tax support scheme criticised

Council tax scheme opposed

Council tax scheme opposed - Credit: PA

OPPOSITION councillors in Tendring are demanding new restrictions on council tax support be re-considered, claiming they were mis-led on initial proposals.

Tendring District Council (TDC) announced changes to their council tax support scheme last November which will prevent anyone claiming a discount if they move to the area after April 1.

Under the new rules, such claimants will have to wait five years until they are eligible.

However, it has now emerged the rule will also apply to any new claimants seeking support if they moved to the district after April 2008.

Critics say the residency criteria as laid out at full council only indicated those moving into the district after April 1 this year would be affected and have called on council bosses to hold another vote.

Leader of the opposition Labour group Ivan Henderson said it was “entirely unacceptable” to introduce a policy so different to what members voted on initially.

Independent councillor Michael Talbot and Lib Dem councillor Harry Shearing have also called-in the decision.

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Mr Henderson said: “We made our protest at the initial meeting when we thought the council should seek legal advice before it went through and we accepted it, but what we don’t accept is trying to introduce policy through the back door.

“Councillors have not had the chance to vote on the extension of the policy which we should have had and this is going to hit people already living here. That’s not the policy councillors voted on.

“Councillors make policy, officers don’t.

The new rules will not affect existing claimants who have not lived in the district for five years.

Leader of TDC Peter Halliday said the rules could not be imposed retrospectively on those already in receipt of support, only on new claimants who have not lived in Tendring for five years already.

Central changes to TDC’s council tax support scheme will require anyone who used to be exempt from paying their bill to contribute 10% to make up for a £1.5million cut from Government funding.

Similar changes are being introduced at councils across the country.

Mr Halliday said: “We’ve always been open about the residency clause. The detail of that policy was to be written up by officers and agreed after that meeting.

“It’s now the detail of that policy which is causing problems, which is fine. It’s being called-in and a scrutiny meeting will be held to decide if it goes to full council again.

“But this does need to be done as a matter of urgency as the deadline for confirming our scheme to the Government is nearing.

“The bigger picture is about trying to deter benefit claimants.”