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Dudley slammed for "taxing death" after changes to council tax rules
9:30am Thursday 29th November 2012 in Local
DUDLEY Council has been slammed for putting a "tax on death" after the authority approved new council tax rules.
A full meeting of the council this week agreed alterations which will reduce council tax breaks on empty properties.
The leader of Dudley's opposition Conservative group says the changes will hit bereaved families trying to sell the homes of dead relatives.
Cllr Les Jones said: "Its a tax on death, we used to give them an exemption of six months, now they have got to pay from day one.
"People going through bereavement will be slapped with a bill from the council they can't challenge. It is a charge on the estate but, if there is no cash, the family will have to pick up the bill."
Currently properties which become empty, including after the death of the occupier, do not become eligible for council tax for six months.
Regulations set to come into force on April 1 2013 will remove tax holidays and discounts on properties which are empty, including those undergoing renovation.
The changes were approved at a bad-tempered Dudley Council meeting on Monday November 26 which saw politicians clash over a revenue budget strategy report which included the controversial council tax changes.
Cllr Jones told the meeting: "This report reinforces the view the current administration is lazy, naive, dogmatic and borderline incompetent."
Labour's Cllr Dave Branwood (Gornal) hit back saying he had heard a lot of "waffle and bile" from the Tories.
He added: "The people of Dudley don't trust the nasty party - end of story."
Dudley Council finance supremo, Cllr Pete Lowe, defended the council tax chances, blaming the Conservative-led coalition government in Westminster for grant cuts which force local authorities to make drastic reductions in spending.
Cllr Lowe said: "We have to make very difficult decisions, there is very little good news.
"We can't look at these issues in isolation, we are looking for the least difficult options to place on local people."
He added the council was working hard to minimise the impact of cuts on frontline services.
He also said he would be willing to consider any alternative plans to raise the £1.5m per year which the changes to council tax rules will bring to Dudley Council's coffers.