SOME of Bridgwater's poorest households may have to start paying hundreds of pounds in council tax for the first time next year.

Government cutbacks mean Sedgemoor District Council has to find more than £1million of savings for a new local council tax benefits scheme, coming into force next April.

A report for last Wednesday's council executive meeting said: “The only realistic way to achieve such a significant reduction in benefits expenditure, is to share the impact across all 5,315 working age customers.”

The key change will mean that every potential council tax payer - even those on very low incomes or receiving certain benefits, who presently pay no council tax at all - will be forced to pay at least 20% of their total council tax bill.

For an average Band D property, that could be £258 a year; for the cheapest Band A properties, it could be £193.

Only pensioners will be excluded from the changes. Making all council tax payers pay at least 20% of their bill could make up £960,000 of the council's £1,050,000 of required savings.

The report for last week's executive meeting also said a £50,000 'exceptional hardship fund' could be set aside for emergency cases.

Sedgemoor District Council leader Duncan McGinty said: “The Government has cut our budget by about 12% and those savings have to come from somewhere. It's not an ideal situation.

"There are going to be an awful lot of people who are going to have to pay money who have never paid it before.

“We are going to consultation to find the most appropriate way to make these changes. It's not something that anybody locally is happy about.”

You can take part in the consultation by clicking here