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  1. ITV Report

Bristol City Council tax changes could affect thousands of low-income households

The plan is for all working age households to make council tax payments. Credit: ITV West Country

Thousands of people in Bristol who receive full council tax discounts may have to start paying from next year under proposed council changes.

In February the council passed plans to make £100m worth of cut. Now it says it can no longer afford to keep up the same level of help being given to low income households through the Council Tax Reduction scheme.

Bristol City Council provides discounts for the poorest families in the city. Credit: ITV West Country

Bristol City Council provides discounts for the poorest families in the city.

If it were to maintain the same level of support, next year the scheme would cost the council £41.8m which is £4.1m over budget.

The council's plan is for all working age households to start making payments towards council tax.

£41.8m
cost to the council if they continue the current tax reduction scheme next year.
25,000
homes could be affected by a change in council tax policy.
The Council says it can no longer afford the level of help being given to low income households. Credit: ITV West Country

Sara Oliver doesn't currently pay council tax.

She lives with her partner and 13-year-old daughter and says their income is already stretched to its limit.

I'm struggling to see what I'm going to actually be able to cut out any more. I luckily haven't had to resort to food banks yet, but there certainly would be the possibility that I may have to do that.

– Sara Oliver

Sara Oliver says she worries about being unable to give her daughter money for hobbies and going out with friends. She told ITV West Country's Ellie Pitt that this is an isolating experience.

You feel very out of society, you know you feel very much left out as a low income earner, especially with a family, it makes you feel like you're failing in a lot of ways, it's not nice.

– Sara Oliver

The council is asking for feedback on three options for raising council tax:

Local housing trade union representatives say the options will not give the council what they want.

I think what we'd have, as you see in other cities, is an increasing number of people in arrears, the council having to spend more and more money taking people to court to get the money, more and more people in situations where they are choosing between their rent or their mortgage and their council tax.

– ACORN Housing Trade Union
The changes would affect thousands of lower income households across Bristol. Credit: ITV West Country

Bristol City council say single parents with children under three and those with the medium or highest rate of disability support will continue to be supported.

The Mayor of Bristol says changes must be considered but the most vulnerable people will still be protected.

We are facing some of the most difficult decisions on how we fund public services in Bristol's history. All the options presented recommend continuing to support those in severe financial need and take into account the need for a discretionary fund and some protections for those worst off.

– Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol