Council tax bills began to drop through letterboxes all over Gravesham in the last few weeks with many people on benefits finding they have to pay council tax for the first time.

Gravesham Borough Council wants to point out that this is the result of government policy to reduce the cost of benefits nationally. Every council in England and Wales is having to do the same and, on average benefits have been cut by 8.5% this year with a greater cut expected next year.

The council’s customer services department is being bombarded with people confused by the bills and the fact that they are expected to pay something towards their council tax.

Over the next couple of weeks nearly 40,000 bills will be sent out with almost 9,000 going to benefits recipients. Pensioners on benefits are not affected and will not have to pay as the government excluded them from the changes.

The council, in common with other authorities in Kent, adopted a local “Council Tax Reduction Scheme” to lessen the impact as much as possible but this is still affecting many households.

Council leader Cllr John Burden said: “The government has lined up a number of measures from benefits cuts to the so-called bedroom tax which we fear will hit the worst off in our community.

“Many of our callers are upset, distressed and understandably angry. Others may not have understood the bills they received and may not realise they have to pay until the final demands go out later in the year. There is nothing the council can do to alter this position and customers are being advised to contact their local MP to voice their views.”