LIBERAL Democrats in Portsmouth have criticised the government’s changes to council tax which they say will hit the poorest workers.
It came as the city council began consulting on how to minimise the impact of a 10 per cent cut in the money they receive to protect people on low salaries.
From April next year local authorities will have to come up with their own schemes to replace council tax benefit, which is being abolished by the government.
Officers calculate this will leave them with a shortfall of £1.87m, which will have to be met either by cuts to services or increasing the amount residents are charged.
In a report they recommend scrapping the 100 per cent exemption that lifts some people entirely out of paying council tax.
This would mean all working people, no matter how low their salaries, will be required to pay the levy – but disabled people and pensioners would be protected.
Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the report outlined one way of dealing with a difficult situation.
‘It is a really bad move by the government,’ he said. ‘I have attempted to get them to change their minds because this will hit people on the lowest incomes.
‘It will also discourage them from having jobs and the richest people in communities will be protected. There are much better ways of doing this.’
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said: ‘It is a disaster waiting to happen.
‘I have written and made representations to the government on it. We have a high proportion of pensioners in Portsmouth so it will hit us especially hard.’
Labour group leader Jim Patey said: ‘Consultation is important because we need to prepare and start jumping up and down.
‘We need to tell the government this is not on. You can’t squeeze more money out of people on low salaries at such a difficult time.’
Consultations will now be held with local fire and police authorities and Hampshire County Council.
A full public consultation will then take place during October.