Thousands will see 
their tax bills go up

Amber Valley Labour leader Cllr Pauk Jones is concerned about changes to the council tax benefits system.
Amber Valley Labour leader Cllr Pauk Jones is concerned about changes to the council tax benefits system.

A top Labour councillor has slammed Tory plans to ahead with a free garden waste service in Amber Valley, while hundreds of poorer people risk Council Tax hikes.

From April unemployed people in Amber Valley, as well as those who are disabled and lone parents will see their Council Tax bills rise by more than £67-per-year on average.

It comes after a Government decision to reduce the benefits grant it gives local authorities each year by 10 per cent.

Amber Valley Borough Council says it has to make up a £850,000 shortfall by introducing a benefits cap for claimants of working age - which will claw back £350,000 for the authority this year.

The rest will be saved through increased tax on second and vacant homes.

But opposition Labour group leader Cllr Paul Jones, who represents Heanor West, has called the decision ‘callous’ and says poor people in Heanor in will be hardest hit - while the free garden waste service will mainly benefit those with bigger properties and higher incomes.

He said: “It would appear the Tories would rather provide free green waste collection, at a cost to the council of £500,000 a year for the residents of Duffield Swanwick, Kilburn and Belper than help those less fortunate in our society.”

Latest unemployment figures show there are 819 people without jobs in Heanor - with 801 people taking up the free garden waste collection service.

There are 95 unemployed people in Duffield - compared to a take up of 888 on the green waste collection, which previously cost £40 a year.

Cllr Jones believes the move will force the poorest in the borough into taking payday loans and so into debt - whereas the recipients of the green waste collection will ‘hardly notice’ being £40 better off, which is what the waste scheme previously cost.

But Tory leader Cllr Stuart Bradford, said the average additional cost to those affected will be just £1.29 a week.

He said: “I feel strongly we have struck the right balance between helping residents to recycle and balancing the books for all the residents we serve.”

He stressed that most of the deficit would be recovered through removing the discount on second homes and empty properties “following a consultation process which demonstrated considerable support from respondents to do so,” he said.

Residents approved the idea of a free garden waste scheme in a separate consultation on recycling in 2011.