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Get a job and get a month’s tax back
6:00am Tuesday 10th December 2013 in Echo News
UNEMPLOYED people in Basildon who land a job are being offered an extra reward – a council tax-free month.
Basildon Council’s new scheme aims to make it more worthwhile to benefit claimants back to work.
The move coincides with changes which will force almost 9,000 local council tax benefit claimants, pay a quarter of their council tax bills.
Until last year, they paid nothing and this year, for the first time, they had to pay 15 per cent of their bills.
Householders are being forced to pay something towards their bills because Whitehall grants to subsidise council tax benefit are being sharply cut.
The move has been criticised by some as a way of “punishing the poor”. Under the Tory-controlled council’s 15 per cent rule, 530 residents are now in arrears, with this number likely to increase in April when they will be asked to pay a quarter of their bills.
Stuart Sullivan, councillor responsible for resources, said the council’s offer of a tax-free month for the newly-employed who found a job, which was to last for at least three months, was aimed at making things easier for those who found work.
He said: “I believe the scheme put forward is a fair one for the people of this borough, while continuing to protect pensioners and vulnerable groups, who are exempt from the changes.”
In the next financial year, outof- work householders in a Band D home will be asked to pay £386 of the £1,547 council tax they would pay if they were working.
Unemployed Cassie Hawthorn, 22, who lives in Loxford, on the Felmores estate, in Pitsea, welcomed the scheme.
She said: “I think it’s a good idea to offer council tax support to those who get jobs, as it shouldn’t cost too much to do.”
COUNCIL house rents are also due to increase next year by about four per cent.
The increase is the latest knock-on effect of a Government policy introduced more than a decade ago to bring council rents closer to those for other kinds of social housing.
This is due to continue until 2017, bringing with it an increase each year.
Council claim they would lose out financially if they did not continue with the annual increases, but next year’s proposed Basildon Council increase has been criticised by Labour group leader Nigel Smith.
He said: “This is a very harsh policy that sees a combination of Tory council leader Tony Ball and Chancellor George Osborne punishing people because they have low incomes.”
The exact size of the increase will be finalised early next year.
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