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commented 2014-09-30 23:53:22 +0100 · Flag
COUNCIL TAX SUPPORTCONSULTATION

COPY OF AN EMAIL I SENT TO BARNET HOUSING ACTION GROUP

I wrote earlier about two consultations which are coming up. I think this one [below] should be one of our main focus-points over the next few weeks.

If we aimed at flooding the council at the POLICY & RESOURCES COMMITTEE meeting at 7.00pm on Tuesday 2nd December, assuming we could get enough claimants together, able and willing to make their voice heard, we could force them to consider what they have called OPTION FOUR – the option the government has given them to keep council tax benefits for all those who are entitled, and to make savings elsewhere.

Some facts :
€
Low-income Londoners are facing higher council tax bills. At least 313,519 Londoners paid more council tax under their local council tax support scheme in 2013/14 than they would have done under the old benefit. On average, they were charged £151 more per annum – equivalent to two weeks of jobseeker€’™s allowance. These claimants are now liable for over £91.5 million in council tax annually.

Nearly four out of 10 affected Londoners have been sent a court summons for non-payment. 118,027 people who are paying more council tax under the new council tax support scheme have been issued with a court summons because they have fallen behind on payments. ô°€ Court costs have added £10 million to the amount owed. In 2013/14 almost 93,000 council tax support claimants were charged over £10 million in court costs.

Nearly 16,000 cases have been referred to bailiffs. 15,944 cases were referred to bailiffs in 2013/14. Local authorities are facing lower collection rates. The collection rate for council tax owed by council tax support claimants with an increased liability in 2013/14 was, on average, 81 per cent, compared with average collection rates of 97.4 per cent in 2012/13.

Now here is something I hadn’t realised:

Six authorities (City of London, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Merton, Tower Hamlets and Westminster) set up schemes that made no changes to the old council tax benefit system and maintain 100 per cent reduction in council tax liability. Havering, Kingston upon Thames, Wandsworth and Richmond upon Thames made some minor changes, such as abolishing the second adult rebate, altering non-dependant deductions or capping support to a particular council tax band, but did not introduce a minimum payment.

When this first came in, the Barnet Tories did consider doing the same as these other boroughs and refusing to take from those who had nothing BUT THEY DID NOT INCLUDE THOSE OPTION IN THEIR PUBLICCONSULTATIONNOR IN THEIR DISCUSSION AROUND THE REPORT.

At the time I spoke to the committee and asked them to consider this option [which was then called Option 0] At that time the Labour Group believed they had got the best deal thee could. “Other councils are charging much more.”

For the first year of operation the government offered those councils who agreed to attack their poorest citizens a temporary bribe to cover expected non-payment. Now that bribe is being stopped and Barnet is considering raising claimants’ council tax contribution still further.

COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT CLAIMANTS HAVE GOT NOTHING.
BY DEFINITION.
THAT IS PRECISELY WHY THEY QUALIFY FOR THE BENEFIT.
ROUGHLY HALF Of THEM ARE IN WORK BUT SUFFER FROM LOW PAY.

The decision not to offer option four – retain the benefit – was made by the Policy & Resources Committee in July by seven votes to five. Labour did ask them to look at option four.

This means that sufficient fuss might make it very difficult for the Tories to persist with this. There is a dim chance of overturning their decision.

But only if 1] thousands of people fill in the consultation and find a way to reject the options offered and offer new ones 2] as many thousands turn up on December 2nd.

*WE MUST PRODUCE A SUITABLE LEAFLET AND PASS IT ROUND JOB CENTRES ETC. TO LAUNCH THIS URGENT MASS FIGHT- TO-WIN
NO MERE [TOKEN] PROTEST. IT HAS THE AIM OF BRINGING ABOUT A REAL AND SPEEDY CHANGE OF HEART

THE CONSULTATION
http://engage.barnet.gov.uk/consultation-team/options_for_council_tax_support_2014/consult_view OPTIONS FOR COUNCIL TAX SUPPORT

When you get any ‘benefit’ or ‘support’ there is always a note at the top of your letter which says: “This is how much the law says you need to live on”. But last year, the government cut the money available for this and told councils to deal with it: to make the necessary savings. Barnet Council chose the option of taking the money [8.5% of the total council tax] from people on benefits i.e. with nothing. Other councils [e.g. Scotland and Cameron’s own constituency in Oxfordshire etc.] made savings elsewhere. Now the council is threatening us with 3 options for making money out of the penniless:

a] keep their contribution at 8.5%
b] raise it to 15% c] raise it to 20%.
[They justify this renewed attack by claiming that, since they have collected a large proportion of tax till now, this proves the poor can ‘afford’ it.]

In any case, these are the only three options the ‘consultation’ allows. We need to make it clear that we do not accept this trick. The benefits are our due. Even the Department of Work and Pensions recognises this. The earth and all its riches was meant to belong to all of us. The benefits can be seen as compensation for the fact that we have been denied access to our heritage{ our means of life.

The Tories run their council as a business. Their reports read like TESCO bosses’ excuses. Every proposal is cast in the form of a ‘business case’ with all the paraphernalia of a ‘financial benefit analysis’ etc. . Incidentally, they talk about us too. We citizebs are referred to not in our role as their ‘shareholders’ or ‘employers’ but as their ‘customers’.

They claim to be making
£1.32 million out of forcing the penniless to pay 8.5% rising to
£2.36 million if they could squeeze 15% our of them and
£3.12 million if they grind 20%.

But if you go on to the council website and look up the pay of the 83 best-paid council officials you can see that they could save:
£1,639,559 if they reduced top pay to no more no more than that of a government senior civil servants [£58,200]
£2,220,159 if reduced to £50,000 each.
£2,635,159 if reduced to £45,000 each

And if you look at what the councillors pay themselves, they each take £10,000+ a year [which is not bad for what is meant to be a voluntary service.] But, on top of that, they give themselves special responsibility allowances costing us over a quarter of a million [£288,671] a year.

Removing this would give
TOTAL SAVINGS: £2,923,830
This is before cutting out payments to known fraudulent contractors, and for dodgy commercial confidentiality deals, before ceasing vastly expensive and deliberately misleading consultancy contracts, PFI scams [which are sold on so that we end up with the HongKong Shanghai bank owning Barnet Hospital!] etc.

WE SHOULD ALL FILL IN THE CONSULTATION FORM AND DEMAND AT LEAST FULL RESTORATION OF COUNCIL TAXBENEFIT’/SUPPORT.

[THIS WAS AN OPTION THE COUNCIL COULD HAVE CHOSEN FROM THE START. IT CAN CHANGE ITS MIND NOW] PAY BACK LAST YEARS’ PAYMENTS FROM PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN OFFICIALLY DECLARED ENTITLED TO A 100% ‘REBATE’.

WE SHOULD TELL THE COUNCIL: MAKE THE SAVINGS ELSEWHERE DO YOUR JOB: DEFEND YOUR CITIZENS FROM THE ATTACKS OF BIG BUSINESS AND THE GOVERNMENT: SAVE YOURSELVES FROM BANKRUPTCY: CONSULT WITH US. TOGETHER WE WILL FIND WAYS TO RAISE THE FUNDS TO EXTEND, IMPROVE AND DEMOCRATISE OUR PUBLIC SERVICES DO IT. IT IS CRISIS TIME.

WE SHOULD CROWD THE 2ND DECEMBER MEETING WHICH HEARS THE REPORT FROM THE CONSULTATION EXERCISE. MAKE OUR VOICE HEARD. TELL THEM JUST WHAT THE ALTERNATIVES ARE AND HOW TO GE THEM.

Cabinet member for Housing, Tom Davey said: “I would prefer the homes to be sold on the private market because you generally get people in who would be paying a higher price and rely less on public services,”
WE DEMAND A COUNCIL WHICH ACTS FOR ALL ITS CITIZENS
[In any case, going by the precedent set by its outrageous mayor, Barnet is not likely to be any different to the rest of the country, where 36% of housing benefit payments go to private landlords].

In the case of Council Tax the Barnet Tories themselves admit that nearly half council tax support is, in effect subsidising bad employers. They inform us that “The number of working age CTS claimants that are in work are 9,300 opposed to 11,400 who are out of work.” This consultation has not given us the option of requiring employers to pay a living wage.

Curiously our Tory council lays down stricter rules for caring for dogs than it does for people:

Here is an extract from the appropriate section of their website;

The Breeding of Dogs Act requires that the animals will be suitably accommodated, fed, exercised and protected from disease and fire. It is for local authorities, who have extensive powers to check on the standards of health, welfare and accommodation of the animals, to enforce the requirements of the Act.

WE REQUIRE THE SAME PROTECTION YOU OFFER DOGS!
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