Forcing the poorest residents to pay a minimum amount of council tax would be wrong, according to Hastings councillors at a meeting last night (Monday, November 2).
Members of Hastings Borough Council cabinet were completely against scraping the council tax reduction scheme and introducing a five, 10 or 20 per cent minimum to be paid by all working-age people.
This would make Hastings the only council in East Sussex not to do so as authorities search for more ways to make money with impending cuts from the government.
Council leader Peter Chowney said: “To claim even five per cent let alone 10 or 20 per cent off of everyone so that the very poorest in our borough have to pay five, 10 or 20 per cent of their council tax is just wrong.”
He went on to describe it as going back to the poll tax and the money raised would not be worth the amount spent collecting and enforcing payment from people who cannot afford it in the first place.
Cllr Dawn Poole said other businesses would not collect for such small amounts of money and cllr John Hodges said they should not even contemplate it.
Officers proposed to keep the current system but to add a ‘minimum income floor’ for those who have been self-employed for 12 months and a ‘exceptional hardship fund’ to help people who would not reach the income floor.
But concerns were raised over the affect these changes would have on small business owners.
Cllr Liam Atkins said: “Our really micro small businesses are the backbone of our community and are the ones in the future who will be bringing employment.
“We are very concerned about the self-employed aspect because we know this is going to be affecting those really small businesses hard and their families.”
Mr Atkins was worried by the fact that no self-employed people had been consulted and by the low number of people who responded to the online consultation.
Members decided to put forward officer’s recommendations on the hardship fund to the full council.
But they asked to make amendments to the minimum income floor proposal before the council decide on it in the new year.
To read the officer’s report visit: hastings.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s9533/Council%20Tax%20Support%20Scheme.pdf.
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