Legal battle over council tax charges

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SHEFFIELD is one of five councils facing a judicial review tomorrow into plans to start charging council tax to people who have full benefits.

The authority is asking thousands of households of working age who pay nothing to contribute at least 23 per cent of the full level of council tax – equivalent to just under £5 per week for a band A property.

Councils are having to reduce spending on council tax benefit by more than 10 per cent, some £5.5 million in Sheffield, but cannot hit pensioners, so working age households have double the impact.

But the test case by law firm Irwin Mitchell argues the charges are unfair because all councils have been offered some Government funding to mitigate the change.

Sheffield has been offered just over £1.1m but the council has rejected the funding because it also had to provide £2m more towards council tax benefits as a condition.

The case also includes Birmingham, Haringey, Hackney and Rochdale.

The law firm argues the councils have made decisions in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council cabinet member for finance, said: “We recognise how difficult it will be for people who have to pay towards their council tax but the Government has taken £5.5 million from us.

“We are providing a £500,000 hardship fund for the worst-affected households but we are not taking the Government funding because we will have to make even more cuts elsewhere to come up with the sum they want us to provide.”