Council prepares for influx of calls as a fifth of householders will receive higher council tax bills this week (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Hartlepool Council prepares for influx of calls as a fifth of householders will receive higher council tax bills this week
HARTLEPOOL Council is preparing for an influx of calls over council tax as 8,600 residents will see their bills rise this week.
The council says that 6,000 people will be paying council tax for the first time and another 2,600 low paid workers will be forced to pay more as a result of Government spending cuts. That means out of the 40,000 council tax bills due to be sent out this week, a fifth will have gone up.
Staff will answer phones until 6pm Monday-Thursday until March 21 instead of the usual 4.30pm. They will also work from 9am until 1pm on Saturday March 16 and March 23.
Councillor Paul Thompson, cabinet member for finance and corporate services, said: “It is important that we do everything we can to provide advice and support to residents at a time when the Government’s welfare reform changes are impacting significantly on Hartlepool households.
The council is using £500,000 of funds to limit the cut in support to 8.5 per cent instead of the 20 per cent imposed by the Government, but it admits that by next year the money will have run out and the poorest will see bills rise again.
A spokesman for the council said: “We have always been lenient and we will be offering to let people pay in instalments and giving out debt advice, but they will have to pay one way or another.
“For anybody out there who decides not to pay we will have no choice but to take the money through court action or through deducting any benefits they may be receiving.”