Monday, 21 January 2013

How do we fund council tax benefit?

Last week Cornwall Council debated the issue of council tax benefit. As posted here, the debate was inconclusive.

  • The council narrowly voted that it did not want the Cabinet's proposal to impose the full cost of the government cut on working age council tax benefit recipients;
  •  The council also said (even more narrowly) that it did not want an open-ended commitment to continue with the current scale of benefits if that would mean cuts to front-line services;
  •  Finally, the council voted heavily against the idea of a hardship fund with the money taken from the new higher education bursary.

So there will be a new debate next Tuesday at which a firm conclusion must be reached. I'd like to hear the views of the public as to what we should do. As a starting point, it is clear that we have to have a solution. I agree with those who say that the government was wrong to impose this cut on Cornwall (and other authorities), but hand-wringing is not enough. We have to come up with a proposal.

I also believe in democracy and accept that the ideas put forward and voted on last time should not be put forward again simply because we hope that the mathematics of who is in the chamber at the time of the vote will have changed. But new ideas do not have to be fundamentally different. I suspect that the Cabinet will be looking for a solution based on the hardship fund, but possibly tweaking the total amount and definitely looking for a different source for the money.

I would like to put forward the concept of continuing with the current scheme but I accept that we need to find a definitive source for the money.

So I would like to invite ideas for what Cornwall Council should do.

  • Do you think that expecting working age recipients to pay 25% is right if there is a hardship fund (given that the benefit is means tested, this fund is likely to be over-subscribed)? If so, how big should the hardship fund be and where should the money come from?
  • Do you think we should carry on with the current scheme? If so, where do we find the £4.2 million to make the books balance?
  • Or do you have a different idea?

I'd be keen to hear any and all ideas as soon as possible. Either leave them in the comments section or email me direct - alexfolkes@gmail.com


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