Information about my work as a Labour Councillor for East Finchley in the London Borough of Barnet

Monday, 19 November 2012

Council Tax Benefit

One issue I am very concerned about is the scrapping of Council Tax Benefit (CTB) and replacing it with Council Tax Support (CTS). This means the Council will have greater responsibility for Council Tax revenues, though the Revenues and Benefits department. This is a concern to me, because Revs & Bens is going in One Barnet, and I am worried that overzealous collection by a company for whom this will be part of their profitability will put vulnerable people at risk.

The change is completely undemocratic, as Councils have had to design their new systems, consult and will have to implement this by April, despite the bill for it not yet having passed Parliament! And almost as soon as ours is up and running, it's going to be bundled off to the One Barnet winner.

But what is unfair about Eric Pickles Poll Tax, is that there will be a funding shortfall of £4.4 million to Barnet. (In fact I understand it's £4 million or slightly less, but they want to create a reserve). This shortfall will have to be plugged with various new things. for example, empty properties will have to make a contribution. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as we won't want to incentivise empty homes in a borough with a severe housing problem.

But the real 'Poll Tax' is that many may be required to make a minimum contribution. in the presentation to Councillors, it was pitched to as much as 25%. This is potentially hundreds of pounds a year for people already struggling financially. This could be crippling if you're a single parent, a low paid worker, vulnerable or disabled. This is particularly pernicious when you consider other benefit caps and cuts, loss of tax credits, high housing costs in the Borough, high energy and transport bills and cuts to affordable childcare.

All the while, the Government are giving millionaires thousands of Pounds worth of tax cuts. Kerching as the Private Eye might say. This Government make Mitt Romney look compassionate to the poor. At least the are dropping the 'we're all in this together' rhetoric. I suppose it was too hard to say it with a straight face.