Council tax discount may be scrapped

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UP to 50,000 Wiganers would be financially worse-off if plans to scrap a council tax discount to single people are introduced.

Wigan is said to be one of a number of Labour authorities who want to abolish the Single Person’s Discount to raise extra revenue to offset the effect of Government cuts.

Almost 50,000 people who live alone across the borough are currently entitled to claim the 25 per cent allowance which works out at an average of £325 for a Band D property.

Opposition Tory Coun James Grundy says that a family were warned by the council’s own registrar staff that the allowance could go as they recorded the death of a parent in the town hall.

Nationally more than 7.7 million people receive the relief and local authorities including Liverpool, Sheffield, Nottingham, Burnley and South Tyneside have already suggested changes to end or reduce the Single Person’s Allowance.

Wigan has 34 per cent of house holds currently eligible for the Allowance which is, say the council, “around the national average.”

But Leader of the Council Lord Smith said; “There is a new bill going through Parliament at the moment which passes responsibility to councils to fund Council Tax but will only provide 90 per cent of the cash.

“Any change will be the act of the Coalition Government.”

Council Head of Citizens’ Support Anthony Mohammed said that the Government were in the process of reforming the council tax system and from next April local authorities will be responsible for designing their own local council tax benefit schemes for council tax payers on low incomes.

He said: “While the government has indicated that it will be changing the rules for some Council Tax discounts, they have not indicated that they intend to change the rules for qualifying for a single person discount.”

But Coun Grundy insisted that he had been contacted by a worried constituent who learned about the alleged changes threat to the allowance from a council officer as she officially registered the death of her father, leaving the widow as another single person household.

He attempted unsuccessfully to raise the matter at the latest full council meeting.

More than 40 per cent of the 10,000 people in his Lowton East constituency currently qualify for the allowance, he pointed out.

Coun Grundy said: “My constituent was warned that the council are thinking of getting rid of the Single Person’s Discount, which she is rightly very alarmed about.

“At first I though this must be some misunderstanding or misinformation because I hadn’t heard much of a whisper about it.

“But now I find that a number of Labour councils, because they want to raise additional revenue, have written to the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles earlier this year asking to do precisely that, or certainly reduce it.

“With the number of widows this would effect across Wigan, abolishing the Single Person’s Allowance would be inflicting the real Granny tax.

“If this was to go through I would consider it nothing less than a tax on widows and utterly disgraceful.”