Consultation Begins on Changes To Council Tax Benefits – Here is A Response From A Birmingham Resident

Re Consultation On Replacement of Council Tax Benefit

I am responding to your letter dated 8 September 2012 concerning Council Tax Benefit. I write as a person with a disability and I am surely far from being the only one who is very worried by proposals to scrap Council Tax Benefit and replace it with a system (to be named Council Tax Support) which clearly aims to force some of the most vulnerable people in this city to pay an extra £10.9 million from the meagre benefits they try to survive on.

Council leader Albert Bore recently said central government was responsible for this change (i.e. a cut central government funding for local authorities). This may be true up to a point. However, in its panicky obsession with reducing the nations’s debt this government protects the very bankers whose greed is largely responsible for the financial mess we are in and then, with breath-taking hypocrisy, calmly expects the poorest and most vulnerable people in society to foot the bill.

The 8 September letter, which makes no mention of what will become of the current “A” to “H” council tax banding system, claims BCC will protect pensioners, claimants or their partner in receipt of war disablement and war widows/widowers pension, claimants with children under 6 in their household and claimants, or their partners or children who have “certain disabilities”. I’m sorry but this is a frankly cynical attempt to be claiming to protect all of the most vulnerable people in the city and is surely rendered somewhat hollow when you admit in your four point plan that only people with “certain disabilities” will be protected.

So which disabilites will be ignored and what of the many unemployed people in this city (where joblessness is already above the national average and rising) who are already on or close to the breadline? Your letter admits people in these categories will be expected to fork out money they can ill afford. Despite your department’s attempts to phrase the 8 September letter in sympathetic wording, your proposals amount to divide and rule of the worst sort and it has to be said that that is utterly shameful. It also means that, whatever Councillor Bore may say, the proposed actions of this council mean it is going along with central government policy.

There must be tens of thousands in this city who do not have extra money to pay to clear up a financial mess which was not of their making. I am just one of many.

Your proposals are not acceptable and, if you really claim to protect the most vulnerable people in town, I appeal to you to throw these plans out, protect all vulnerable people and tell this government you will not do its dirty work.

Yours
G Smith

You can take part in the consultation on cuts to council tax benefit:
A copy of the draft scheme, and an explanation of the main changes that are proposed can be found on www.birmingham.gov.uk/counciltaxsupport. If you do not have access to the internet, you can access it for free at your local library. Alternatively if you would prefer to be sent a copy of the scheme and explanatory documents, you can telephone the council on 0121 464 5179.

You can complete a questionnaire online at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/bcccounciltaxsupport

You can attend a public meeting:

West Perry Common Library Saturday 15th September 11am
South Northfield Library Thursday 20th September 5pm
East South Yardley Library Saturday 29th September 11am
North Hollyfields Centre, Erdington Thursday 4th October 6pm
Central Birmingham Midland Institute Thursday 18th October 6pm

So that refreshments can be provided and everyone accommodated it would be helpful if you could let the council know if you intend to come along by emailing ctsconsultation@birmimgham.gov.uk. Don’t worry if you’re unsure whether you can make it, you are still welcome to turn up on the day.

You can email any comments to ctsconsultation@birmingham.gov.uk. The council regret that they cannot respond to emails personally but your comments will be formally recorded.

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10 Comments

Filed under Birmingham City Council, Cuts

10 responses to “Consultation Begins on Changes To Council Tax Benefits – Here is A Response From A Birmingham Resident

  1. Colin

    Bankers are an easy scapegoat for all the nation’s ills, but they were only part of the problem. The last government spending a thrid more than its income for so many years is what built up the debt that we’re now laden with. One way or another, we have to pay for government spending with taxes. Either we need to spend less, tax more, or probably a balance of both.

    • http://graphsagainstausterity.tumblr.com/image/22510930767

      I don’t know if these graphs will display but click through to have a look at some details on te deficit and debt levels.
      Whatever else anyone might think about the Labour Govt and their economic record it is not true that they spent a third more than income for many years.
      In fact Labour ran a surplus from 1997-2002 and a deficit from 2002 onwards.
      The national debt was lower the day Northern Rock went bust than it was when Labour came into power in 1997.
      This idea that it’s all Labour’s fault is a smokescreen to deflect anger from this government’s policies.

      The legacy of debt is down to the huge bailouts paid to the banks and the double dip recession that has followed and been caused by the banking crisis. The problem was the banks, their lending practices in the USA and the interconnected nature of the global banking system especially with regard to high street banking – something that Labour not only failed to deal with, but continued the deregulation begun under Thatcher’s Big Bang in the 1980s.

      It is not true that we need to spend less – austerity has led to double dip recession, which has led to the deficit rising:
      https://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/austerity-failing-deficit-rising/

      So cuts in spending do not help with the problem that we have of our annual deficit being too high, in fact instead of reducing the deficit this policy is now increasing it.

      In fact we need to follow an alternative strategy which involves spending more in the short term on useful infrastructure projects to raise demand in the economy and allow the private sector to move forward with confidence.
      You can find out more about this – both the theory/ideas behind it and the practical policy outcomes – in our alternatives section:
      https://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/alternatives/

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  4. The letter from G Smith is excellent, thanks for putting it up.
    I’m interested to know what Birmingham Against The Cuts official views are on the last paragraph, which I totally endorse:

    “Your proposals are not acceptable and, if you really claim to protect the most vulnerable people in town, I appeal to you to throw these plans out, protect all vulnerable people and tell this government you will not do its dirty work.”

    Is pressure going to be put on the Labour council to go rather further than a ‘consultation’, which to all intents and purposes means implementing the cuts, but being open and honest about it whilst apportioning blame on central government? Surely the answer is for Labour councils to refuse to implement these political cuts? How do we get to that point?

    • Birmingham Against the Cuts has always opposed all cuts, and called on Birmingham City Council to oppose cuts that are being made.
      I wasn’t at our meeting on Monday so I don’t know if the council tax benefit cuts were discussed there, and am unaware if there is a specific position agreed on what exactly the council should be doing in terms of CTB cuts.

      I am certain that we would endorse the words of that final paragraph and we stand in opposition to these – and all – welfare cuts.
      We would encourage people to take part in the consultation that is happening to let the council know that residents of Birmingham want them to oppose these cuts and to join us in real opposition to central government.

      On a personal level I would also want to call for a campaign of non-payment of council tax by people who have had their benefits cut. I am confident that batc would support such action, but am not aware of such a campaign existing anywhere in the UK, nor of it having been proposed and voted on at one of our meetings so cannot honestly speak for the group.
      The main concern with a campaign would be the elvel of support amongst claimants, and whether there would be the critical mass, as with the Poll Tax, to make chasing these people a practical and financial impossibility.
      The council would be able to support such a campaign by refusing to prosecute people for the couple of hundred pounds they owe, on the basis that it would cost more than that to put them through the courts.

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