£4.5m cut to council tax benefits

Darren and Rosemarie Burgess of Lichford Rd, with children India 5 and Freya 4
Darren and Rosemarie Burgess of Lichford Rd, with children India 5 and Freya 4
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TENS of thousands of South Yorkshire people could have their council tax benefits axed or slashed, The Star can reveal today.

The Government plans to cut £4.5million from the £45m council tax benefit Sheffield currently receives.

The council will have to decide where the cuts are made - but has pledged pensioners will not have their allocation cut.

Of 60,000 Sheffield households claiming council tax benefits 48 per cent are pensioners - leaving the remaining 52 per cent, or 31,200 households, with people of working age to shoulder the £4.5m cuts.

Single person households, which receive a 25 per cent discount, may also be affected.

The proposals were greeted with dismay by Rosemary Burgess, aged 36, who lives with her husband, Darren, 42, and their five children aged four to 13, in Arbourthorne, whose family would be among the losers.

Rosemary said: “We have received full council tax benefits for the last two years since my husband was made redundant from a job in a steelworks.

“He has been trying to find work ever since and we wouldn’t mind contributing if we were earning.

“I do not work because I have to look after the kids, one of whom is disabled and has been very ill. This change just seems to be hitting the poor - when everything else, food, electricity, gas and fuel, is going up.”

Mick Daniels, chairman of Brushes Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, in Firth Park, added: “Hundreds of families in our area will be affected by the change which will just make the poor get poorer.

“We are already seeing parents struggling so much that they are finding it difficult to afford a few pounds to pay for activities for their children.”

Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore said: “It will be up to us to decide how to reduce the level of benefits.

“We could ask households who are receiving 100 per cent council tax benefit to make a contribution, or we could change or remove the single person’s discount.”

Coun Dore added: “This is an unfair policy because it will have a disproportionately worse effect on poorer northern communities and does not take into account the fact that the number of claimants could increase when more public sector jobs are under threat.”

Coun Simon Clement-Jones, Sheffield Council’s Lib Dem opposition finance spokesman, said: “We have to try to ensure this is done in a fair way.

“That’s why the consultation makes it clear that the new council tax benefits scheme will protect vulnerable people, including pensioners, who may struggle to pay council tax.”