Councillors in Haringey have agreed the first part of a key pledge to scrap council tax for the borough’s poorest residents.

At a cabinet meeting last night (August 13), members gave the go-ahead to a consultation on extending Haringey’s council tax reduction scheme for working-age claimants with children.

The move means this group of people – accounting for 6,000 of Haringey’s poorest residents – will be exempt from paying council tax from next year.

Since the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition axed council tax benefit in 2013, Haringey has capped the discount it provides to residents not claiming disability benefit at just over 80 per cent.

But the current administration – elected in May on a left-wing ticket – says the changes have hit the poorest hardest and wants to shift the tax burden away from low-income groups.

The move to scrap council tax for working-age claimants with children will cost around £1.6 million for the 2019-20 financial year.

Reverend Paul Nicholson, of campaign group Taxpayers Against Poverty, told councillors the move was “a small but vital start to reversing the ravages of austerity”.

He said: “It will be used by campaigners and campaigning organisations as an example to other councils of what can and ought to be done.”

But Rev Nicholson asked the council to go further and conduct a “thorough overhaul of council tax enforcement”.

He said many people on universal credit fall into arrears and are hit with extra costs that push them into further difficulties.

Councillor Patrick Berryman, cabinet member for finance, thanked the Rev Nicholson for his contribution and said the council’s move was “the first step” towards providing 100 per cent council tax support for claimants.

He said: “There are 10,000 working-age households affected by the council tax reduction scheme. We are helping 6,000 of those – the ones with children.

“We still need to collect what is due but have made it a part of our manifesto to do so in the most ethical way we can.

“It is something we are going to be looking at.”

Under questioning from Liberal Democrat councillor for Highgate Cllr Paul Dennison, Cllr Berryman admitted that changes to the way the scheme is calculated could lead to some households paying 95p per week more in council tax.

But Cllr Berryman said it would only be a “very small group” – less that one per cent of the total claimants – who would be affected, while the vast majority would see their situation improve.

Cllr Dennison also questioned whether any services would be axed to relieve the pressure on the council’s general fund created by the policy change.

Cllr Berryman admitted the plans had not yet been fully budgeted for but added that funding discussions were ongoing.

He said: “This is a priority pledge. We feel we have the capacity to do this at this stage. This is as far as we think we can go in our first year.”

Cllr Berryman added that the benefits system gives the City of London “a run for its money in terms of complexity”.

A consultation on the proposed changes will now be held with relevant interest groups, and the results will go to a meeting of the full council in January.