Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Good news for bailiffs! Cornwall Tories and Indies back moves to impose new council tax burdens on poorest families

This morning Cornwall Council's Cabinet - made up of six Conservatives and four members of the Independent Party - unanimously backed a scheme which will force some of Cornwall's poorest families to pay up to £938 per year in extra council tax.

During the debate the Leader declared that council tax benefit - the payments they are proposing to cut - was simply
"an easy way for other people to help themselves to our resources".
As I have blogged before, the decision of the government to cut the amount of money available for council tax benefit for working age families is wrong. And the Leader is wrong to characterise recipients as scroungers as more than a third of them are working and many more are carers.

The council has to devise a scheme to pass this cut on. It has two options. One means forcing working age recipients to pay 25% of their council tax bill and to limit the benefit to Band D.

This will, in my view, force many more families into the arms of our foodbanks. It is also likely to force larger families out of areas with higher property prices - a form of social cleansing. And Cornwall Council will have to find a way of squeezing money out of people who simply cannot pay. It is estimated that there will be under-collection of between 15 and 50%. That implies that the bailiffs will be knocking on the doors of at least 4000 additional homes next year. Good business for them, but terrible news for local people.

According to Cornwall Council's own figures, this will increase council tax bills for a single parent on a low income by as much as £938.08 a year.

But Cornwall Council has the money to ensure that poorest families are not hit in this way and that is the alternative option. Just yesterday, councillors agreed to end second home council tax discounts and tighten up on council tax holidays enjoyed by those who can afford to leave homes empty. These changes will not only raise the £4 or £5 million needed to fund council tax benefit as it is at the moment but also means that the council will qualify for an extra £1 million transitional grant for one year - that's a million we wouldn't have under the council's scheme.

The cabinet decision is not the end of the story however as this matter will go to full council in the New Year. Liberal Democrats will be pressing for the alternative scheme which will use additional money paid by those wealthy enough to have more than one home to ensure that poorest families in Cornwall are not facing unreasonable rises in their council tax bills.

Cornish Guardian/West Briton coverage is here.

No comments: