Taxing times... readers tell us what they think of plans to raise council bills in South Tyneside

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LIFE is getting too taxing for the good people of South Tyneside.

Borough residents are facing a Council Tax rise for the first time in five years.

The levy has been frozen since 2010.

But with another £22m in efficiency savings needed, the council’s cabinet is being recommended to agree a 1.95 per cent hike. The coming year’s budget proposals also include a recommendation for a 2.5 per cent rise in council house rents.

Care worker Maxine Moore, 51, of Calf Close in Jarrow, labelled the increases “simply not fair”.

She said: “I work 16 hours a week at Stapleton House in Jarrow and I have to juggle my finances. I have a payment card from the council and I can pop into a shop and use that to pay my Council Tax, which works out at £6 a week.

“I pay £250 a month rent and I’m already affected by the bedroom tax. I live in a three-bedroom house and as a result of that I lose out on housing benefit, but I don’t want to move somewhere smaller because I have lived there for 11 years. It is my home and I have done a lot to it myself in those years.

“They may say it’s only a 1.95 per cent increase but it’s a rise I could certainly do without, especially when your wages are just rising by pennies at the same time.”

Anti-austerity campaigner John Tinmouth concurred.

Retired accountant Mr Tinmouth, 70, of Tynedale Road, South Shields, pays £1,400 a year in Council Tax.

He said: “I want to see an end to austerity and I hope to God the Greek government is successful in achieving its aims.

“I expect nothing from this Tory government and the council should have resisted any pressure to raise Council Tax, but I expected nothing more from it.”

Pensioner Bert Bleasdale, of Belloc Avenue, Biddick Hall, South Shields, has little sympathy with the local authority’s financial predicament.

The former projectionist at the Odeon Cinema in South Shields said: “If the council provided services that were of a decent standard an increase would not be so bad, but it doesn’t.

“The footpaths where we live are in a terrible state, I’ve tripped up twice. The cuts off to the shops are never cleaned and are covered in plastic bags.”

His wife Maureen Bleasdale, who worked at the Cigarette Components in South Shields, added: “I suppose a 1.95 per cent rise doesn’t seem a lot but it all adds up. We live in a band A property and with discounts we pay Council Tax of £31 a month. We’re pensioners and any rise is significant.”

John Lupton, 76, a retired bus conductor, added: “I couldn’t tell you how much Council Tax we pay – I leave that to the wife. I do know we pay £7 a week rent. I can’t see the justification for the council putting up both rents and Council Tax when you consider the poor services that they offer the public.

“We live in a bungalow in Toner Avenue in Hebburn, and I ask them to cut my hedge but it never gets done. They’ll cut the grass but not the hedge, no matter how high it grows.”

For an outsider’s view we approached James McCourt, 72, from Washington, a former miner at Wearmouth Colliery, who said: “I live in a band B property and I don’t know what my council, Sunderland, is planning, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes up. Everything does these days.”