Tory Council Tax timebomb for 20,000 poorest families in Barnet

Council Tax increase for low-income families is THREE TIMES the average

Barnet residents are using the council elections this week as a protest vote to stop Conservative plans for a massive 50 per cent Council Tax increase on the poorest 20,000 families in Barnet.

The Conservatives will take an average £150 extra from people who qualify for Council Tax Support in Barnet, including nearly 10,000 minimum wage families on in-work benefits.

For everyone else, Conservative Leader Cllr Richard Cornelius is planning an average £50 increase in annual Council Tax from April 2019.

The Barnet Conservatives are taxing the benefits of the poorest families in the borough to keep council tax down on luxury properties, including addresses on The Bishop’s Avenue, Barnet's famous billionaire’s row.

Cllr Barry Rawlings, Barnet Labour group leader, said: 

"It cannot be fair to put up Council Tax for the poorest families by three times as much as everyone else. 

“Sadly, it's typical of the Conservatives to tell voters they will keep council tax low while hiding their real plans.

“The truth is if the Conservatives win in Barnet they will hit low-income families with a £150 council tax rise, up from an average £300 to £450 next April." 

Under Conservative budget plans passed by the council on 6 March, the Council Tax increase for a Band D property in 2019 will be around £50. But the increase will be three times higher or an average of £150 for 20,000 working age households claiming working tax credits, disability benefits and other income support.

This raises an extra £1.4m from families surviving on benefits, which will be used to keep council tax lower for better-off householders.

In 2015, Barnet Tories more than DOUBLED council tax paid by ​low income families from 8.5 per cent of the full rate to 20 per cent of full council tax. Labour councillors voted to keep the 8.5 per cent rate.

At the time, the Child Poverty Action Group and the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust charities, which opposed the increase, said:

“The minimum payment required by the council’s Council Tax Support scheme is already pushing Barnet’s most deprived residents deeper into poverty.

“For the majority of claimants this minimum payment has to come out of benefits, which are already insufficient to provide for the basics of life. This means that just over 20,000 residents have been placed in the impossible situation of trying to cut down their food, utility bills or other essential costs in order to pay their council tax."

The increase is caused by plans to cut Council Tax Support which were hidden on page 26 of the Conservatives’ budget documents [see notes below]. The Council Tax increases are not mentioned anywhere in the Barnet Conservative Party manifesto.

The hit on the poor is the result of the Conservative Lib-Dem coalition government abolishing council tax benefit in 2013. They left it to local councils to decide the amount of cash help given to families on benefits.

Now t​he share poor families have to pay will jump to 30 per cent of full council tax next year.

The Child Poverty Action Group and the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust charities said in their report on the 2015 increase:

“Increasing council tax liability will take money out of households already in poverty and struggling to afford essentials for children.

“Unlike other authorities with a comparable level of payment, Barnet’s scheme does not exempt vulnerable groups such as disabled people or single mothers with children under the age of 5.”

If Labour is elected it will scrap the Tory increase in council tax for the poorest families in the borough.

This means that in the Barnet council elections, the Conservatives are the high tax party with plans for bigger Council Tax increases than Labour.

Labour is delivering letters across Barnet this week alerting voters to the Tory plans to hike up Council Tax for the poor.

ENDS

Notes:

Increase in Council Tax Support charge to families on benefits from 20% to 30% of full council tax starting, April 2019.

This raises an extra £1.4m from families surviving on benefits which will be used to keep council tax lower for wealthy householders.

Families who qualify include low-paid workers on in-work benefits and tax credits, parents with children on free school meals, parents with children under 5, the long-term sick and disabled and people out of work. 

Page 26 of 3-year financial forecast that was approved by Conservative-controlled Barnet Council on 6 March 2018:

Full Budget document here:  

http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s45346/Appendix%20C1%20-%20Detailed%20Revenue%20Budgets%20Savings%20Pressures%20and%20Council%20Tax%20Schedules.pdf

The last Barnet council report on Council Tax benefit in 2015 showed that there were 20,338 working age households eligible for CTS (14 per cent of all households in Barnet), with 9,335 of these in full or part-time work.

Full document here: 

https://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s20240/Council%20Tax%20Support%20Options%20for%20a%20revised%20scheme%20post%20consultation.pdf

The Child Poverty Action Group and the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust charities publish regular updates on Council Tax Support, showing that the highest-charging boroughs are Conservative-controlled.

Comment on Barnet’s 2015 increase to 20% of full council tax:

Barnet proposal to cut Council Tax Support 2015_CPAG Z2K

Latest survey on Council Tax Support in London:

Still Too Poor To Pay, update September 2017

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