1.9 MILLION people who pay no Council Tax in the poorest households in England will pay an average of £140 a year tax from next week because of benefit changes coming into force, anti-poverty think-tank the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) warned yesterday.
The report, written by the New Policy Institute (NPI) for the Foundation, also found that 2.4 million low-income families face an average rise in their Council Tax bills of £138 also from 1st April.
Council Tax Benefit is being replaced by a new system of Council Tax Support, and responsibility for it is being moved from central government to councils.
At the same time, the total central government funding for the benefit is being cut by ten per cent. Each council in England has had to decide whether to further financially penalise residents.
The JRF report found that 232 local authorities had devised schemes that would demand Council Tax from everyone regardless of income, while 58 will retain current levels of support for families.
Most are to increase bills for low-income families.
It warned that abolishing Council Tax Benefit would leave 150,000 families paying on average £300 more a year.
Chris Goulden, Head of Poverty at the Foundation, said: ‘Some of the country’s poorest families must find £140 extra from their strained household budgets to pay Council Tax for the first time.
‘Making up the shortfall will be beyond most, with working hours under pressure and benefits falling behind inflation.
‘This tax hike will push people into poverty or cause more hardship for already very poor households, taking money from families who had little to start with.’
Sabrina Bushe, researcher at NPI, said: ‘From Monday, two million households that were previously deemed too poor to pay Council Tax will find hefty bills landing on their doormats.
‘Hitting only the poorest and most vulnerable, this tax increase, which won’t raise much more money than it costs, is both unjust and unwise.’
The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, has warned that there will be an increase in those unwilling or unable to pay the tax.
• The Treasury has written to government departments warning ministers they will have to cut up to ten per cent of their budgets for the year 2015/16.
Ministers are preparing for the spending review to be held on 26 June.
This follows the announcement by Chancellor Osborne in last week’s Budget speech that he wants to cut another £11.5bn from public spending.