FURTHER cuts to council tax benefit will hit low-income families already struggling to make ends meet, it has been warned.
Around 5,000 working-age claimants, who previously paid no council tax at all, will have to pay up to 20 per cent of their bill from next April.
For those living in a Band D property, the hike equates to £180 a year or £3.60 a week.
Pensioners and vulnerable working-age claimants, such as disabled people, will not be affected.
The cuts were first introduced in April this year, following the government’s decision to scrap the national council tax benefit scheme and replace it with locally run schemes, but at a lower level which meant claimants paid an average of £78 a year.
Plans to continue the scheme — set to cost the council £500,000 next year due to a shortfall in government funding — were unanimously approved at last week’s IW Council meeting, despite concerns over the impact it would have on the poorest people and council coffers.
Costs were lower last year because of a transitional grant awarded by government.
Cllr Bob Blezzard said: "Will council tax benefit decrease year on year until it disappears completely? More people will default on payments, so collection will cost more. It’s a slow death policy being inflicted on local government."
Cllr Geoff Lumley said: "Welfare claimants are struggling more than ever to make ends meet and we need a safety net in place."
The impact of the cuts, even at a reduced level, has been significant.
Between April and the end of September, the council issued 4,150 more reminder notices and 509 summons to appear before magistrates for non-payment of council tax than during the same period last year.
Magistrates made 684 more orders, enabling the council to collect unpaid tax by docking claimants’ earnings or benefits, and the authority has taken on extra staff to deal with the increased workload.
Following the introduction of legislation enabling bailiffs to increase their fees by around 300 per cent, to £230 per visit, the council will have to consider whether it can afford to use them.