Dec 27 2012 by Rob Pattinson, Ormskirk Advertiser
WARNINGS that the poorest people in West Lancs will be hit hardest again were issued as the council passed through its scheme for localised Council Tax support.
A total of 4,850 working-age residents in the borough will be affected by the Government decision to cut the amount given to councils to spend on Council Tax benefit by 10%.
West Lancs will be hit with a cut of £110,000 from April 2013, when councils take over responsibility for the benefits system.
Following a consultation, the borough’s ruling Conservative group passed through its preferred option at a full council meeting last Wednesday of continuing with the present scheme but applying a percentage reduction of 22% to the benefit.
The changes will only affect claimants of working age, with existing and future pensioners protected. A public and stakeholder consultation over the options for how the cuts should be implemented was conducted with of a random sample of 5,000 residents alongside all working-age claimants.
But Labour councillor Cynthia Dereli said consulting on the issue was cruel, adding: “It was like asking someone if they want their arm or leg cut off.”
During the meeting, Tory councillors were urged to vote against the recommendations if they felt it was “immoral” by Labour’s Cllr Liz Savage, shadow portfolio holder for resources and transformation.
She said: “[This policy] will increase pressures on our council collection and the amount which this individual council will benefit from will be greatly outweighed by the amount it will cost to collect from those who can’t, not won’t, not refuse, but can’t pay. I ask you to tell your government that their austerity measures are cutting too far and too deep.”
But Conservative Cllr Adrian Owens said a decision had to be made, as, if the council didn’t decide on a scheme itself, it would be forced to implement a default scheme.
And council leader Cllr Ian Grant said: “Many of us find this legislation somewhat difficult but we have to implement it.We have to come up with a scheme. Overall, while a difficult policy to implement, [this option] is the right one.”