At Northumberland County Council’s full meeting in January, members agreed on a reduction in the level of council tax support for working-age claimants from 100 to 92 per cent. The change attracted some fervent criticism but was passed by 31 votes to 26, with six abstentions, while an amendment to drop the cut as part of last week’s budget debate was not put to the vote as it had already been passed the previous month. Now, Labour has released information obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, in which, they say, ‘the unfair nature of balancing the county’s books is laid bare’.
A breakdown of the number of people to be affected in each of the 66 council wards shows that there is a large discrepancy between different areas, much of it along party-political lines. A total of 15,426 people are expected to be affected, according to the figures, and just 21 are in council and Conservative leader Peter Jackson’s Ponteland South with Heddon ward – the lowest number in Northumberland.
The ward with the most people expected to be affected (767) is Hirst, in Ashington, represented by Labour’s Coun Ken Parry. The remainder of the top 10 most affected are all Labour wards in the south-east of the county with the exception of Alnwick – a ‘double’ ward now represented by two Conservative councillors, following a merger of the previous Alnwick and Lesbury wards. The top eight are all in Ashington or Blyth, with Newbiggin Central and East coming in at number nine. Meanwhile, seven of the 10 least affected wards are held by Conservatives, with the other three being represented by two independents and a Lib Dem – the latter being South Blyth.
Ian Lavery, Member of Parliament for Wansbeck and Chair of the Labour Party issued a Social Media Statement saying;
“I’m truly disgusted to read this Freedom of Information request from Northumberland County Council which shows that Wansbeck Constituency is the worst affected in the county, with well over 5000 people set to lose out on Council Tax Support. This includes 2271 families with children, over 1500 registered disabled people and over 2500 single women.”
“All of these people are my Constituents and they are all set to lose significant financial support because of a cruel decision by the Northumberland Conservatives to balance their books on the back of our community’s most vulnerable.”