A plea to help ‘those who need it most’ — by giving them an extra five per cent off their council tax — has been rejected by Isle of Wight councillors.
At last night’s (Wednesday) full council meeting, members approved a new council tax benefit reduction scheme, aimed at saving the authority almost £150,000.
The scheme would give Universal Credit claimants a reduction of between 20 and 70 per cent.
Garratt: ‘Should be doing more for those that need it’
Lib Dem Cllr Andrew Garratt proposed an amendment to increase the maximum discount to 75 per cent, and said the council ‘should be doing more for those that need it’.
Cllr Michael Lilley, who supported the motion, said the five per cent increase would save the council money because fewer families would need help from other council-run support services.
“If we increase it, we would be sending a message that we are listening to those families on the Island that are struggling.”
Stewart rejected the amendment
However, council leader Cllr Dave Stewart said he could not support the amendment because the council had a duty to ‘all residents of the Island,’ not just benefit claimants.
He said the new scheme was comprehensive and continued the current scheme, without the need for changes.
Cllr Stuart Hutchinson, cabinet member for finance and resources, said the proposed five per cent increase would cost the council almost £500,000 a year.
The Conservative-controlled council rejected the amendment by 19 votes to 12.
Garratt: Chance for council to say we recognise difficulties
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Garratt said:
“Obviously I am very disappointed.
“Here was a chance for the council to say we recognise the difficulties people are in paying their council tax — that it would be better to give them that uplift of just a few percentage points extra, so they would have that money in their pockets each week to pay for essentials.
“In the end, I hope the message is out there that people should, whatever their circumstances, recognise the council has a hardship fund. There is some help available for them — I am just sorry it is not coming directly through the amendment I moved tonight.”
Hutchinson: Amendment would mean asking residents for more
Cllr Hutchinson said:
“The reason I opposed it is because we really do have to have a balance between what we give to those individuals who are in need and the amount of money we have to raise from the rest of the Island population who have to pay for it.
“Had we agreed the amendment, we would be asking Island residents to find another 1.5 million over the three year medium term strategy — we didn’t feel that was wise.”