More than 670,000 of the poorest households in England will face an increase in council tax of £120 a year on average from Tuesday as the government withdraws a benefits safety net, a survey of local authorities has revealed.{jcomments on}

Using freedom of information requests, a joint investigation by the Guardian and the campaigning organisation False Economy found that from April, 83 local authorities are reducing protection for vulnerable residents.

All councils in the country replied, giving the first complete picture of how this measure, which critics have called another poll tax, is affecting the poor.

Ministers cut funding for the means-tested council tax benefit by £500m last year and instructed each local authority to decide how the reduced benefit pot should be distributed.

However, to cushion the blow ministers offered £100m in "transitional grants" to councils that designed schemes that would offer some protection to the poor.

This money will not be replenished, so this year will be the first that the government will no longer take the poorest out of council tax. Of the 83 councils reducing support to the most vulnerable, more than 50 relied on the government's transitional grant funding to provide welfare relief.

An estimated 675,000 working-age households will see bills rise by an average of £127 a year, amounting to £234 on an average band D property.

Read the full story in the Guardian


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