May 20 2013 Latest news:
Monday, March 18, 2013
AN Ely man who has disabilities so severe that he will never be able to work claims he is being discriminated against by East Cambridgeshire District Council over its plans to make him pay Council Tax.
Jason Blake, 29, suffers from relapsing polychondritis, a rare condition which means his body’s immune system attacks his cartilage, leaving him in constant pain.
Such is the severity of his condition, the cartilage that supports Jason’s throat has been eroded to the point that he has difficulty breathing and has to sleep with a pressurised air pump on to prevent his airway collapsing.
He also has type 1 diabetes and has to visit hospitals as far away as Manchester and London every week.
Recent changes to the benefit system introduced by the Government mean that the district council is now in charge of how Council Tax Benefit is administered in East Cambridgeshire.
Under the Government’s new guidelines, councils will be able to make people who were formerly in receipt of Council Tax benefit pay a proportion of their bill, though they are not obliged to.
From April 8, East Cambs District Council will begin charging Jason council tax on his home, in Clay Way, which could end up costing him £96 this year.
He said: “If for example I was living in East Hampshire, I wouldn’t have to pay anything, but East Cambs District Council has decided it wants me to pay a percentage of the bill.
“I realise it only works out to about £8 a month but for me it’s the principle. I feel that I am being discriminated against because of my disabilities.”
Later this year, Jason is set to undergo pioneering treatment, with doctors attempting to rebuild his trachea. It will be the first time the operation will have been performed in the UK.
A spokesman for the district council said: “When the Government announced it was abolishing the national scheme for Council Tax Benefit, it gave the responsibility to local authorities but cut the funding we receive by ten per cent. This meant we had to create a new system which would involve making some difficult choices. This is why we asked the public, voluntary groups and others to feedback via a consultation on a range of options - this included removing the discount available to owners of empty homes to reducing the amount of benefits available to those who are not working.
“As a consequence of their feedback, we designed a scheme to protect the most vulnerable people in our society as far as possible. By giving less generous discounts to people with empty properties, we have limited the impact on people with low incomes which we believe fairly reflects the responses we had. We have every sympathy with those are now having to pay a small amount of Council Tax under the new scheme - however we have done all we can to keep the costs as low as we could. If anyone is struggling with their payments, we would always encourage them to come and speak to us to see what we can do to help them further.”