Councillors have agreed to cut council tax benefits by up to £85 a week for low income families, amid accusations by opponents of ‘hypocritical politics’.
But leaders on Dudley Council hit back at the claims, saying cuts in grants from central Government had given them no option but to slash payments.
Thousands of households in Dudley borough will pay up to an extra £85 a year in council tax under new reforms – but this could rise further within two years.
Around 17,000 families would be affected by the changes, which will hit those who get help to pay their council tax.
It comes after the government scrapped the national council tax benefit scheme in April, leaving local authorities to decide whether residents should get money off.
Councils have been given a 10 per cent cut in funding for the new scheme.
Councillors drew up proposals on whether to absorb council tax cuts, or reduce payouts by either 8.5 per cent or 20 per cent.
Around three quarters of people who responded to the consultation demanded payouts remained at the same level.
But Dudley Council’s leadership will implement an 8.5 per cent cut to benefits payouts – with pensioners, disabled, children and lone parents with a child under five receiving some protection from the cuts.
This arrangement could then be extended past 2015 but may also rise to 20 per cent going forward thereafter.
Tory councillor Tim Wright, speaking at Monday’s council meeting, said: “Talk about disingenuous politics, or hypocritical politics – the party opposite said they would go out and consult and consult and consult, which they have done. Have they listened? No.”
Opposition Conservative party leader, Councillor Patrick Harley, said that the authority should have looked at a cut of 20 per cent immediately, adding: “There is a lot of talk about public service reform, the need for change and requirement to be radical.
“The Labour group on this council have failed at the first attempt and have bottled making the right decision due to pressure from their own back benchers.”
Deputy council leader, Councillor Pete Lowe, hit back at Councillor Wright’s comments, saying: “He would actually listen to the people who took part in the consultation even less then the accusation that he has put to this group.”
He added: “We have had no option but to make these cuts after the decision by the Tory-led Government.”