‘Give some extra help to Huntingdonshire’s poorest families’

Huntingdonshire District Council

Huntingdonshire District Council - Credit: Archant

A charity is calling on Huntingdonshire District Council to stop counting child maintenance as income for poor families who need help with their Council Tax bills.

Gingerbread, which gives advice and support to single parents, says HDC is among 22 local authorities in England charging more in Council Tax to single parent families in receipt of the benefit.

The previous Council Tax Benefit Scheme was scrapped and from April 1 many people who had previously paid nothing towards their bills, nearly 5,000 Huntingdonshire households, have to contribute at least 20 per cent.

In working out how much people pay, HDC looks at their income. For those receiving child maintenance, £10 of the monthly payout is protected but anything over that is considered income.

Gingerbread claims a single parent receiving £25 loses £156 a year due to having to pay higher Council Tax bills, money it argues would have been spent on the child.

Its chief executive Fiona Weir said: “More than 300 councils, all of whom are facing tough decisions, have recognised the importance of child maintenance for single parent families by keeping it out of their Council Tax support calculations.

“We know that councils are reviewing their schemes for next year and urge Huntingdonshire District Council to take this chance to change its policy.

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“Children from single parent families are already twice as likely to be poor as children from couple families and it’s vital that those who do get child maintenance feel the full benefit of that support.”

Under the new rules, local authorities had to decide how to administer the Council Tax Support Scheme, and HDC decided to count income from child maintenance when working out how much support a person would be entitled to.

An HDC spokesman said: “Once an outline scheme had been put together, the council carried out a public consultation, and respondents were asked for their opinion on the proposal to take into account all but the first £10 of child maintenance payments when assessing a claimant’s income.”

Out of the 424 responses, 50 per cent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the proposal, 17 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed and 33 per cent either disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The spokesman continued: “Taking into account the results of the consultation and following financial modelling, the final proposed scheme was presented to members and was approved at Full Council on December 19 2012.”

HDC provides support and assist- ance for people who need help with paying their bills. Call the Council Tax Helpline on 01480 388030.