Sheffield benefit cut plan a ‘bombshell’

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PROPOSALS to share a £4.6m council tax benefit cut between low income families have been described as a ‘bombshell’ by opposition councillors.

Sheffield Council has launched a consultation on a plan to reduce tax benefit payments by 20 per cent for all working age claimants – totalling 30,000 people.

It comes as the authority is to take over provision of the benefit next year with a fixed grant of 10 per cent less paid by the Government, although pensioners are protected from any reduction.

Liberal Democrat opposition chiefs say the council should use new powers to tax empty and second homes instead.

They claim the Government estimates this would save the council £3.3 million and said the authority was spending on refurbishing council offices and consultants.

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Sheffield Lib Dem group leader, said the party was calling on the council to reconsider its plan.

He said: “I’m sure residents will be shocked to hear Labour are planning a council tax bombshell, while at the same time Sheffielders are losing their weekly bin collection.

“Councillors claim they’re forced to make this cut but at the same time they’re shelling out millions on office refurbishments.

“The Government have provided new powers to tax empty and second homes which the council is choosing to ignore.”

Families in band A properties could face paying an extra £3.76 a week, or £195.52 a year, under the plan.

The council says reducing the payments would ‘spread the burden’ of another difficult cut, and the alternative is to cut services further after major budget cuts because the shortfall cannot be met.

Taxing empty and second homes would only save about £2 million, claimed finance chief Coun Bryan Lodge, and he said making Sheffield Town Hall ‘fit for purpose’ was agreed in the last budget.

The consultation runs until September 17. Visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/lcts to comment.