RESIDENTS in less affluent areas are propping up a “grossly unfair” system in which they are expected to help pay the council tax of those who cannot afford to, a council leader has claimed.

Councillor Stephen Harker, of Labour-run Darlington Borough Council, said despite having focused on the authority’s finances for some years, some issues the borough faced over Council Tax Support (CTS) had only recently become apparent to him.

He said while the council had been charged with designing and running its own CTS scheme since 2013, from the time the scheme was transferred from Whitehall the council was only given 90 per cent of the £7.8m it needed to fund the relief.

In Darlington, the average Band D householder faces a £1,749 annual council tax bill and even those in the cheapest and smallest Band A properties face a £1,166 annual bill. 

However, residents can apply for CTS if they own their own home, rent, are unemployed or working, but what they get will depend on factors such as household income and who lives at the property.

Cllr Harker told the meeting areas with a larger proportion of people who qualified for the relief were facing a disproportionate burden in funding the scheme.

Ahead of the authority’s cabinet agreeing to continuing to provide 80 per cent CTS for most working-age people who qualified and up to 100 per cent CTS for care leavers under the age of 25, he said successive government grant cuts had further eroded the council’s ability to fund the relief.

An officers’ report to the meeting stated: “The operation of the local CTS scheme continues to represent a significant financial challenge to the council and other precepting authorities.”

Cllr Harker said: “In the last eight years, cuts in grants from government the money we have been given to support this has also diminished.

“About half of the £7.8m the support costs the council we have lost in terms of grants from government.

“Effectively what is happening is local residents are having to subsidise people who are struggling to pay their council tax.

“This is grossly unfair because it clearly affects local authorities which are less affluent more than more affluent ones.”