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Norwich MPs urged to intervene over council tax benefits shake-up

Alan Waters, deputy leader of Norwich City Council.

Alan Waters, deputy leader of Norwich City Council.

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City councillors have unanimously agreed to put pressure on Norwich’s MPs over proposed changes to council tax benefits, which critics say will hit some of the poorest people in the city.

The government plans to cut the national council tax benefit bill by 10pc next year and has told local councils they have to come up with their own support scheme to replace the current national system.

But Norwich City Council says it stands to lose £1.5m a year through that move and had been facing having to cut support to people on low earnings, with pensioners and the disabled protected from losing out.

A cross-party working group at City Hall had considered the issue, but councillors reluctant to save money by cutting support to people on low or no incomes have recommended keeping the existing scheme.

Instead, they plan to cover the cost by reducing council tax exemptions and discounts for second homes and empty properties, while using money collected through council tax to subsidise the scheme.

At a meeting of the full city council tonight, a motion was agreed urging Norwich North MP Chloe Smith and Norwich South MP Simon Wright to “make representations” to the government to get the proposed changes scrapped.

Alan Waters, deputy leader of the council, who put forward the motion, said of the shake-up: “This has no redeeming features and has been condemned by every political party.

“What the government should be doing is encouraging people to claim every benefit they can to see them through these difficult times.

“I am delighted we have unanimity across all groups about the damage this proposed change will have on people in the city.

“We came onto the council with the purpose of doing good, yet we face having to impose hardship on the most vulnerable people.”

Stephen Little, Green city councillor for Town Close, said: “It stinks as a piece of legislation”. while Judith Lubbock, Liberal Democrat city councillor for Eaton, said it was “unpalatable”.

Norfolk County Council this week agreed call on the government to think again over the proposals, agreeing a motion put forward by Labour and amended by the Greens.

But the Lib Dems at County Hall were left fuming that their motion calling for a summit between councils and MPs to discuss the issues was not supported.

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