From the Revd Paul Nicolson
Sir, - Local councils are currently coping with the
consequences of the Local Government Finance Act 2012, and the
Treasury's decision to cut the central government funding council
tax benefit by ten per cent. Each council is now required to create
its own council-tax benefit scheme; that means the reintroduction
of a variety of poll taxes, of 1990s renown, for working-age
claimants, at 8.5 per cent, 15 per cent, or 20 per cent of the
council tax from April 2013.
Councils with large numbers of claimants say they cannot afford
100-per-cent benefit for those receiving it now, and keep services
running. They are exempting pensioners and, in most cases, the
disabled. Wealthy councils will keep 100 per cent for all
Haringey Council has decided to tax benefits with 20 per cent of
the council tax. That will be on top of the caps on housing benefit
and the £500 overall cap on all benefits. It analysed the
cumulative impact of housing-benefit caps (HBC), the overall
benefit cap (OBC), and the 20 per cent of the council tax (CT) to
be paid by claimants in and out of work. An increase in council tax
by Haringey of £45 a year, or 86p a week at Band D, would pay for
keeping the 100-per-cent CT benefit.
There are, however, 36,000 people in Haringey who will be paying
council tax for the first time. Of them, for example, there are 131
single people who, owing to the HBC, will have to pay an average
amount of £5.89 a week, and a maximum of £51.89, rent, out of £71
weekly jobseekers' allowance (JSA), plus an average of £2.92 weekly
CT, and a maximum of £5.89.
It gets worse. There are 49 unemployed couples with two children
who, owing to OBC, will have to pay an average of £67.87 a week in
rent out of their JSA, plus children's benefit of £258 a week, and
an average £4.53 CT a week. The reaction of tenants I have met is
fear and insecurity.
Varieties of those impacts will be repeated throughout England.
Inevitable council-tax arrears are enforced by councils with
threats of prison, a magistrates' liability order, adding around
£70, and bailiffs, adding up to a further £400. Chan-ging benefit
up-rating from the RPI to the CPI in April 2011 has already
diminished the capacity of benefit income to keep up with
The Welfare Benefits Up-Rating Bill, freezing increases at one
per cent for three years, brings to mind last straws and broken
backs. The Bill has its second reading in the Lords on 11 February.
There has never been a stronger case for the 26 Lords Spiritual to
vote en bloc against it; confirmations can be done by
suffragans that day.
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF