Council U-turns on bid to cut council tax benefits

PLANS  to cut £3million in council tax benefits for Bristol’s poorest families have been scrapped in a major U-turn by the city council.

Deputy mayor Cllr Craig Cheney made the surprise announcement on mayor Marvin Rees’s blog but warned the decision meant the authority would have to find savings from elsewhere to balance the books.

He said that while the results of a public consultation showed most people supported changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS), “now is not the time” to make them, despite full council approving the proposals last February.

It is a huge victory for community union ACORN which has campaigned for months to retain the benefits in full, including the threat of legal action and disrupting several City Hall meetings.

Bristol City Council formally abandoned the proposals on Tuesday, December 5. A report said 40 per cent of the 6,500 respondents to the consultation wanted to keep the CTRS as it was, with 60 per cent favouring cuts.

The changes would have seen a working-age household’s entitlement reduced by between 10 per cent and 41 per cent a year – £154.83 and £585.36 per year respectively – depending on which of the 10 options was chosen, affecting up to 22,800 families.

Cllr Cheney (Labour, Hillfields) said: “When I was growing up in Bristol, my family was supported by council tax benefit. It was a real lifeline for us.

“Since 2016, our Labour administration has protected our Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which replaced the benefit and is one of the last full schemes in the country.

“This means that up to 100 per cent of a household’s council tax bill can be paid for through the scheme, with 75 per cent of eligible low-income households currently having their bills paid in full.”

An ACORN spokesperson said: “23,000 Bristolian families who otherwise would have been pushed ever further towards food banks, overwhelming debt and homelessness can breathe a sigh of relief. This is the second time Labour has tried to cut it and the second time ACORN has stopped them.”

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service