Low earners will be hammered by coalition plans to replace council tax benefits with a mishmash of schemes drawn up by local authorities running on decimated budgets, Unison warned today.
The public-sector union wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg urging them to rethink the benefit shake-up to be introduced in April.
Under the Local Council Tax Support scheme, which replaces council tax benefit, councils will be free to devise their own methods of distributing benefits but due to cuts will only have 90 per cent of the previously available cash.
Unison's letter points out that the new scheme rightly gives priority to pensioners but that this will leave some of the lowest-paid households shouldering the burden - leaving some families hundreds of pounds worse off.
And the union warned the shake-up will effectively wipe out any gains to low earners from changes to personal tax allowance - a central part of the coalition's claim that it is helping those on low incomes.
The letter reads: "The coalition government claims to be introducing tax measures that will help the low-paid.
"Yet the fact is that while some workers will find that their income tax bill is reduced by £220 a year next April, many other low-paid workers will feel no benefit at all."
Unison highlighted East Riding of Yorkshire Council, which processes and pays around 28,000 council tax benefit claims, of which about 15,000 are pensioners.
The total council tax benefit paid in 2011/12 was £23 million of which £13.1m went to pensioners and £9.9m to claimants of working age.
Pensioners are protected - so the overall 10 per cent budget cut of £2.3m must all come from the £9.9m to help those of working age, meaning their share of the budget will be slashed by nearly a quarter.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "It is time for the government to put its money where its mouth is.
"We hear a lot from Cameron and Clegg about helping low-paid workers but actions speak louder than words.
"For many hard-working families the changes to council tax benefits will wipe out any gains from changes to the personal tax allowances next April.
"Only this week, Nick Clegg called for the wealthy to pay more tax. And the coalition has claimed that it has taken real action to help low and middle-income earners by changing personal tax allowances.
"But what the government is giving with one hand, it is taking away with the other."
A Number 10 spokesman said they have yet to receive the letter.
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