The Government has slashed funding for Council Tax Benefit by 10% but has left local authorities the power to decide how that cut is implemented. Whilst some more affluent Councils have made the decision to absorb this cut, around three quarters will be passing on the cut to their poorest residents.
As has become typical of this toff Government, it will be low paid workers, single parents, unemployed or sick and disabled people who will suffer.
A recent report from the Resolution Foundation has found that a single parent working part time will face increases of anywhere between £3 and £12 a week depending on where they live. Single unemployed people, or those on sickness or disability benefits in the Work Related Activity Group, could face payments of between £2 to £5 a week.
Just like the Poll Tax, this will leave local authorities pursuing people with nothing for debts that are probably more expensive to enforce than to ignore.
Iain Duncan Smith has long promised that his benefit reforms would ‘make work pay’. This has been based on a lie that people on benefits are better off than they would be in work. The changes to Council Tax Benefit, which the DWP has now relinquished control of, mean that any fiddling around with in-work benefits will be undermined by Council Tax bills landing on the doorstep. All the complicated talk of Marginal Deduction Rates – which means the amount people are worse or better off by being work – was a complete waste of time when local authorities can change the goal posts anytime they choose.
The impact of this bungled and poorly thought through shambles will be devastating for those with least and could bankrupt some local councils. With ever more draconian conditions for claiming benefits, increasing numbers of people are finding themselves locked out of social security completely. Around half a million benefit claims were sanctioned last year. Sanctions can now last up to three years. Anyone leaving a job, or being sacked for misconduct, could find themselves disallowed benefits completely.
Under the new legislation they will still be liable for Council Tax however. As has been previously pointed out, this will lead to feudal scenario under which people with no income at all could be forced to borrow money just to pay a tax for being alive.
Due to the recent housing benefit cuts most claimants are already paying out a substantial part of meagre benefits towards their rent. When the Bedroom Tax is introduced in April almost three quarters of a million social housing tenants will have to find on average £14 a week out of benefits towards the rent. Claimants could see over a third of their income (just £71 a week for unemployed people) going towards paying rent and Council Tax.
It is no secret that some claimants have debts they have to meet. Food, fuel, transport and other costs are all soaring. Under the upcoming welfare reforms, claimants will be expected to have broadband at home or to be able to afford expensive and insecure internet access in cyber-cafes and libraries.
David Cameron’s aides said yesterday that no-one should have to use food banks, with the genuinely nasty snipe that they are used by people who only ‘feel they need’ extra food. The millionaires in Government are telling people living on a few pounds a day that they have no right to claim they are hungry. Like a modern day Marie Antoinette, the effete toff in Number 10 dismisses the hunger of the poorest with the glibbest of remarks. May he one day meet the same fate.
The ugly truth is that soon, when claimants have paid their rent, their bedroom tax, their Council Tax, their debts, their VAT (the tax even children pay), their ‘jobseeking’ costs, and the soaring payments for heat, light and water, then for many there simply won’t be any money left at all for food.
Faced with this non payment campaigns are inevitable, whether aimed at Council Tax, the bedroom tax, or both. The choice between heating and eating is a difficult one. The choice between eating or paying some council jobsworth a fiver a week out of paltry benefits is not so tough. The slogan often used by anti-poll tax campaigners was Can’t Pay Won’t Pay. Never has that been truer than today and history may yet repeat itself.
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