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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 03:35 GMT 04:35 UK
Charities call for council tax reform
Council tax form
Council tax bills have risen sharply this year

Two charities have launched a campaign for council tax reforms, claiming that "inflation-busting" increases discriminate against older generations.

In their new initiative, Help the Aged and the Royal British Legion state that council tax has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, with most pensions only rising by a quarter.

Council tax rises adversely affect older people whose incomes tend to be linked to inflation, the charities claim.

They are also campaigning for reforms in council tax benefit to encourage claims from more pensioners.

Council tax bills have risen sharply this year, with increases averaging nearly 13% among English councils.

'Pensioner rebellion'

The charities' calls come in the same week as a government warning to local authorities that such increases were unsustainable.

It is now threatening to use capping powers against further increases.

Help the Aged incomes policy officer Richard Wilson said: "The government needs to act decisively if it wants to stem a growing pensioner rebellion over council tax.

This uncapped rise in council tax is debilitating for our membership, many of whom are on service pensions
Terry English

"Organisations like ours have been inundated with calls and letters from pensioners angry over above-inflation council tax increases and fearful of the impact of future tax hikes."

A report commissioned by Help the Aged concludes that households spent an average of 3% of their income payment council tax.

But the burden on pensioners is much heavier, with single pensioners over 75 spending an average of 6% of their income on the tax.

Call for reforms

The report, by the New Policy Institute, says a third of pensioners eligible for council tax benefit were not claiming it.

The charities are calling for the government to cut this figure to 10% in the next three years.

An increase in recipients could be achieved by substituting payments to pensioners with a recalculated bill which already included the benefit, they add.

The report says rules restricting the council tax benefit to people with modest savings should be relaxed.

This would reflect the government's new pensions credit, rewarding people who have saved for retirement.

It also calls for restrictions on the amount of council tax benefit to people in higher banded properties to be abolished.

"This uncapped rise in council tax is debilitating for our membership, many of whom are on service pensions," said Terry English, director of welfare for the Royal British Legion.

"They and their dependants will struggle under this increased burden."




SEE ALSO:
Councils angry at tax-cap warning
16 Sep 03  |  Politics
Council tax protests spread
26 Jun 03  |  Business
Council tax rises under fire
25 Mar 03  |  Politics
Prescott's council tax warning
01 Mar 03  |  Politics
'Horrendous' tax rise approved
18 Feb 03  |  England


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