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Tax changes are 'attack on the poor'

Swale council logoby Stella Jones

Less well-off people in Swale will have to pay more towards their council tax from April.

A total of 7,900 residents will have to find extra cash after Swale councillors agreed to cuts.

The Tory-led authority has made the move after its central government grant was reduced from £11.3m to around £10m.

The council tax support benefit goes to people who either paid nothing towards their council tax or who paid a nominal amount.

There are 5,400 residents who currently make no contribution and this decision means that they will have to pay around £78 a year towards it.

Around 2,500 homes currently pay a reduced amount and they will have to find approximately £50 a year extra.

Cllr Angela Harrison (Lab) made an emotional attack on the scheme, saying: "This is an attack on the poor.

"The vast majority of these are hard-working people working for low wages, while the rest of us enjoy a freeze."

The council’s portfolio holder for finance, Cllr Duncan Dewar-Whalley, admitted the change was one the council had "struggled with" and had brought in reluctantly.

He said: "This has been forced on us. I am not happy about it. We just didn’t have any other option. We had to find the best way forward and we tried to look at it as sympathetically as we were able."

A consultation was carried out between July and October last year.

Some respondents said they would not be able to afford to pay anything towards their council tax and 70% asked for disabled people to have special exemption.

The council refused this as protections are already in place for disabled people.

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