Published: 00:01, 04 April 2014
Some of the poorest households in Kent face paying more council tax this year as the government withdraws a financial safety net to protect them.
Councils have begun sending out this year's bills and they will be a shock for many of the county's poorest residents.
An analysis by KentOnline has revealed more than half of district and borough councils are reducing support for more vulnerable residents when it comes to local council tax schemes.
In some areas, householders face contributing twice as much as they did last year.
It is estimated that between 70,000 and 80,000 of the poorest residents across Kent will be affected - with some paying as much as £120 more on their bills.
The government passed on to councils the job of managing council tax benefits last year.
It provided a £100m subsidy to authorities to cushion the impact, but that has not been renewed for 2014-15.
As a result, councils have had to find ways of meeting the shortfall and many have chosen to reduce the support offered to those on low incomes, as the government has instructed councils to protect pensioners.
Five councils have increased the amount they will charge under their schemes for benefit claimants to 18.5% from 8.5% last year.
"Welfare reform is vital to tackle the budget deficit left by the last administration. We are ending the last administration's 'something for nothing' culture and making work pay..." - minister Brandon Lewis
They are Shepway, Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Gravesham and Dartford.
Maidstone has increased its charge to 13% from 8.5% while Swale has increased it to 15% and Ashford to 10%.
Medway has set its rate at 25%, the same as it did last year.
Councils have blamed the increases on the government for withdrawing a transitional grant they received last year.
However, Canterbury City Council has kept its level at 5%, while Thanet Council has also sought to protect the most vulnerable with a 5.5% level.
Swale council said it faced "a tough choice between helping those that have an on-going requirement for financial support and the wider interests of council taxpayers".
Charities have warned that councils imposing increases risk pushing more people into council tax arrears.
In a statement, local government minister Brandon Lewis said: "Spending on council tax benefit doubled under the last government, costing taxpayers £4 billion a year - equivalent to almost £180 a year per household.
"Welfare reform is vital to tackle the budget deficit left by the last administration. We are ending the last administration's 'something for nothing' culture and making work pay."
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