Poorest in Portsmouth ‘15 meals worse off’ after cuts

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THOUSANDS of vulnerable families are set to be worse off after a plan was approved to cut the amount of council tax support.

Portsmouth City Council’s Tory administration has decided everyone who has a job – regardless of whether they are disabled and have to claim other benefits – must now pay a minimum of 20 per cent towards their tax bill.

There’s insidious about consulting people who don’t need council support tax over whether support should be taken away from those who need it. It’s disgraceful.

Lib Dem councillor Steve Pitt

And only a maximum contribution of 80 per cent towards council tax will be given to those in the most dire situations, as opposed to a full refund.

It follows a consultation in 2015 – which 2,500 people in the city responded to – revealed 70 per cent were in favour of the cuts, which the Tories put forward in an effort to claw back £1.7m.

But campaigners are dismayed by the decision to target the poorest people.

Speaking at full council, Lib Dem councillor Steve Pitt said: ‘There’s something insidious about consulting people who don’t need council tax support over whether support should be taken away from those who need it. It’s disgraceful.’

Tory cabinet member, Cllr Jim Fleming, blamed the former Lib Dem council for having to slash budgets.

He said: ‘There are those who are prepared to take difficult decisions, and there are those who are not.

‘And it was the inability to take difficult decisions, over the period of 10 years, when the Lib Dems ran the city, which is why so many things were in such a mess.

‘Nobody took the difficult decisions which completely took the taxpayers for a ride at The Pyramids.’

In making the cuts, the council has set up a ‘hardship fund’ of £250,000 for homes.

Yet some of the worst-off will lose £5.99 a week.

Lib Dem councillor Matthew Winnington said: ‘That’s equivalent to 15 cans of sausages and beans from Asda.

‘For some people, that’s a meal. So they’re losing 15 meals a week.’

The previous national council tax benefit system was abolished in 2013 and replaced by a local council tax support scheme, which Portsmouth adopted in 2013.

Cllr Stephen Morgan, Labour leader, said: ‘The decision to create separate local schemes of support for those in financial hardship from paying council tax is, in policy terms and logic, flawed.’

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