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Pensioners Pay the Price of Council Tax Charges

December 18, 2006 11:45 AM

Liberal Democrats on Bedford Borough Council are maintaining their opposition to the policy of deterring people from paying council tax at the post office.

At Monday's meeting of the Corporate and Resource Committee, Councillor Paul Whitehead stressed the unfairness of forcing those who use the post office to pay council tax to be charged £1.95 for the privilege of making each payment.

Commenting on the issue, Cllr Whitehead said:

"The saving made by imposing this charge could be achieved in a much fairer way, one which doesn't punish many of the most vulnerable people in our society. The people who continue to use their local post office to pay Council Tax include those with mobility issues and also those without bank accounts who are unable to pay by other means such as direct debit. It cannot be right that these people are being forced to pay nearly £20 extra over the 10-month cycle of council tax payments.

"This measure is revealed as being particularly harsh in light of the fact that there is no charge in place for any other payment method, even though credit card payments, for example, cost the council over £2 for each payment made by occupants of a Band D property. It is likely that those using credit cards could pay by equally convenient methods such as direct debit, but use their credit card because of the individual benefits that credit card payments can bring their users. So, we have arrived at a situation in which the Council is forcing pensioners to subsidise Air Miles and loyalty card points for other taxpayers.

"This week we learnt that the Government will be overseeing the closure of several thousand Post Offices. By deterring people from going to their local post office to pay their Council Tax Bedford Borough Council is only making beleaguered post offices more vulnerable to closure. Post Offices play a vital role in communities across the Borough, in particular in the rural areas, and we should be helping them to do so."

The Liberal Democrats were the only party to oppose this unfair charge before its introduction in April this year, and have been consistent in their criticism of its implications for local residents and local post offices across Bedford Borough.