12,000 more face demand to pay Derby's council tax
MORE than 12,000 people in Derby will have to pay towards their council tax for the first time from April 1.
The city council says everyone in the city – apart from pensioners and war widows – will now have to pay up to a fifth of their council tax, even those who did not have to pay anything before.
It says the less-well-off must contribute towards council tax for the first time to help plug a gap caused by cuts to funding from Government.
Cabinet member for finance Sarah Russell accepted the move would "hit the city's poorest in the pocket".
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She said the authority would be understanding to those who could not pay and that a hardship fund would be set up to help.
But she added bailiffs would be sent to recover cash from "those who won't pay".
In total, there are more than 30,000 households in Derbyshire that receive council tax benefit.
In Derby there are about 15,000, of whom 12,200 currently do not pay council tax at all, for reasons such as being in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance or Income Support. Some receiving Disability Living Allowance will also have to start paying up to 20% but pensioners and war widows will be exempt.
Councils get money from the Government to cover the shortfall for people excused from council tax because they are on low incomes or benefits but this amount has been cut by 10% as part of ministers' plans to reduce national debt.
City officials fear as a result they could be left with a £2.6 million "black hole".
Miss Russell said: "If we were to plug the gap ourselves, it would have an impact on frontline services so we can't afford to."
She said that a £200,000 "financial hardship fund" would be set up to help those struggling to pay.
Miss Russell said: "We will clearly differentiate between people that can't pay and people who won't. For those that can't, we will offer all the support we can, such as budgeting help and flexible payments.
"We will send bailiffs for people who won't pay but that is the absolute last resort."
Under Government rules, the city can only increase council tax for householders currently paying their full amount by a maximum of 2% without triggering a referendum.
Miss Russell said Leicester City Council is set to start the same system from the same date and Nottingham City Council will launch it in the next financial year.
Elsewhere in the county, the 1,600 people who previously paid no council tax to Tory-led South Derbyshire District Council will have to pay 10% from April 1. The area's Tory MP, Heather Wheeler, said: "Spending by local authorities has increased by 50% over 10 years. We can't afford the deficit and everybody has to play their part."