Shropshire Council has been criticised for the “horrible and punitive” decision to start collecting 20 per cent of council tax from people on benefits.

The authority changed the way it collects council tax – with now everybody expected to pay at least 20 per cent of their bill – even those on no income other than welfare payments.

The move means some people on benefits still have to find more than £300 a year in council tax.

The method has been criticised by Green Party councillor Julian Dean, who said he is worried it will leave many with a choice of either food and heating their homes – or paying council tax.

He said he is considering raising the issue at the next meeting of Shropshire Council’s cabinet.

He said: “I am really concerned to hear about the impact of the council’s decision to start collecting 20 per cent from those with no income other than welfare payments, which was a horrible, punitive decision.

“Sadly, most councils are now doing this and I don’t think we have heard about the impact it is having on people.

“I am considering tabling a question to cabinet about the reasons why this was adopted.”

When the changes were brought in, Shropshire Council said: “The main change is that the maximum entitlement has been restricted to 80 per cent of your council tax bill. 

“This means that everyone is being asked to pay 20 per cent of their annual council tax charge. 

“This change won’t affect you if you’re in receipt of the severe disability premium, the support component of employment support allowance or a war pension.

“In 2013 council tax benefit was abolished and replaced with a scheme which was to be written and administered locally by each individual council. 

“The Government immediately cut the funding for this by 10 per cent.

“Since this time, we’ve been faced with further cuts in funding as a council and so unfortunately, we’re facing increased financial pressures. 

“These changes are being introduced as a way for us to save money while not having to cut essential services.

“The Government has made it clear that councils should look to maximise locally-generated income to help manage the situation, and to support the continued delivery of key and critical services now and in the future.

“If you’re unable to meet the payments in the first instance you should contact us to see if there are any other means of assistance which can be given, for example if you receive housing benefit but still have a shortfall you could be eligible for a payment from the Discretionary Housing Fund. 

“This could assist you in meeting that payment and allow you to have more income available to pay your council tax instalments.”