THE most deprived families in Bolton could see their contribution to council tax bills double under new plans announced by the local authority.

Under Bolton Council’s local council tax support scheme (LCTS), residents on benefits or very low incomes pay at least 12.5 per cent of their council tax bills.

Proposals about to go to public consultation ahead of implementation next April could see that proportion rise to a minimum of 17.5 per cent with other options even higher at 20 per cent, 22.5 per cent or even 25 per cent.

At a council cabinet meeting the plans were attacked as ‘taking money from people on the lowest incomes who are in dire financial hardship already’.

Under the current scheme working age claimants can receive a maximum of 87.5 per cent of their council tax liability subject to a means test.

Currently 26,321 claimants in Bolton receive support through LCTS, of those 9,394 are pension age and 16,927 of working age.

The proposed increases do not apply to those of pensionable age.

In terms of expenditure, in 2020/21 the council’s working age LCTS expenditure is currently £14.4M.

There has been an increase in those claiming council tax relief from 15,901 in April 2020 to 16,927 in September 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

The council report, stated: “It is proposed to consult on options to further increase the 12.5% of council tax liability to either 17.5%, 20%, 22.5% or 25%.

” This will reduce the level of council tax liability that is used to calculate a working age customer’s entitlement to LCTS and therefore reduce the amount of LCTS that they are entitled to.”

Under the proposals those living in a band A property would see their weekly bill rise by 87p.

If the minimum was placed at 25 per cent the increase per week would be £2.18.

Labour member Sue Haworth said even the lowest option meant a 40 per cent in contributions for low income families and blamed central government for not giving councils in deprived areas a ‘fair deal’.

She said: “This comes from a background of having to increasingly fund services from council tax and business rates.

“We’re being forced to consult on taking money away from very low income families just because this Conservative government can’t be bothered to help this borough in a way that is just and fair in terms of human dignity.

“It is a consultation on how we must take more take more money from people who are in dire hardship already.”

Independent councillor Martin McMulkin also expressed great unease at the plans.

He said: “I have serious concerns, this is deeply worrying.

“You say it’s only 87p per week but that could be the difference whether a family will eat that day or not

“The queues at the foodbanks are getting longer and and this is a blow to those who can least afford it.”

Sending the plans for public consultation, council leader David Greenhalgh said it was ‘with a heavy heart’ that the administration had to make such choices with financial pressures on the council growing.

He said: “We have to look at areas where we would much rather not go.

“We have started at 17.5 per cent which is very much mid-way in where other GM authorities are.

“In fact at three Labour run councils the minimum is set at 20 per cent.”

He added that Bolton had an ‘additional safety net’ of a council tax hardship scheme to which those in need could apply.