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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com. The council regret that they cannot respond to emails personally but your comments will be formally recorded.