Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Planned council tax benefits cuts attack on 'working poor'

Gina Dowding
Gina Dowding
Lancaster Green Party co-ordinator Gina Dowding, has called for Council Tax discounts on empty and second homes to be scrapped to help make up the shortfall in Government grant reduction for Council Tax benefits.

Under Government plans, Council Tax Benefit is due to be abolished in April next year and local councils have been told to develop new localised schemes to replace the benefit.

The Government is reducing the amount of funding it gives to councils to fund their schemes by 10 per cent (£1.112 million in Lancaster ) while at the same time insisting that the changes must not affect pensioners.

This reduction in Government funding means the amount of financial support for working aged people who are currently entitled to help with paying Council tax will be cut by about 18 per cent on average. They will have to make increased payments of around £180 a year on average.

“The reduction in benefits from the Government is an assault on the working poor," says Gina. "For many people trying to survive on minimum wage, on unpaid workfare, or incomes of around just £70 a week, any reduction in the help they receive with paying Council tax will seriously affect their ability to meet basic needs of heating and food bills.

"However, by removing discounts from empty and second homes," she argues, "much of this reduction in benefits can be made up.”

New local government minister Brandon Lewis this week published estimates of how much second and empty home discounts cost individual councils - totalling £425m across the country but varying widely between councils depending on the number of such properties in the area.

The new flexibilities in the way councils charge for Council Tax have been championed by ministers as one way councils can cope with the 10 per cent funding cut due in 2013-14, the Local Government Chronicle reports.

Comparing the government’s estimates for the size of each council’s cut with the estimated extra tax yield available to councils by making use of the flexibilities suggests that 80 (64 per cent) single-tier authorities would be able to cover the amount they are expecting to lose in council tax benefit grant.

Local Government Chronicle: Empty homes discounts: winners and losers emerge

Hansard: Responses to questions about second homes and empty shop tax discounts

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