What hasn’t come with the bill is an explanation as to why these rises are happening. West Midlands Fire Service, faced with 29% cuts in funding from central government over two years has chosen to increase their income from council tax rather than closing fire stations and downgrading those that remain open. The police are also facing cuts, though their 3% rise is more in line with inflation rather than a deliberate move to protect their service and your lives as the Fire Service have done.
But those of us in work who are seeing a rise in our bills should spare a thought for those of us who are out of work, whose bills have risen by infinity per cent, as council tax benefits are cut for unemployed and some disabled people. Those who will continue to receive a 100% discount on their council tax are pensioners, disabled people who are entitled to either the disability premium, sever disability premium, enhanced disability premium or disabled child premium, people in receipt of ESA with a qualifying disability related benefit, people with children under 6, people in receipt of a war pension and people who qualify for the carer’s premium. If you’re not sure if you are entitled to full support, you can check with the council here
Everyone else will be paying 20% of their bill – an average of £5/week out of benefits that are rising slower than inflation. For many people this charge will be joined by the bedroom tax charges to put an even bigger squeeze on tight finances. Expect to see more people going short on food, not turning the heating on next winter or in court facing eviction as they’ve fallen behind on rent.
The council were faced with the choice of charging people who can’t afford to pay – around the UK, council’s expect 84% of people to be unable to pay – or cutting other services more. Solihull, Dudley, Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Coventry councils are amongst those who have decided that with court action likely to cost more than they could recover, they should absorb the cost into their budgets, cutting something else instead. Of course we see this as no choice at all – there is no such thing as a fair cut – and want to see councillors standing up for their residents against the austerity agenda.
So that’s what is happening, but let’s ask why. The reason why our tax is rising whilst services is being cut is because government is choosing to make us pay more rather than closing the loopholes and making the richest individuals and multinational companies pay the £25bn/year tax they should be paying. They are making social housing tenants pay a bedroom tax, whilst rejecting the idea of extra tax on houses worth over £2m which are likely to have far more spare rooms. They are charging unemployed people council tax whilst cutting income tax for the top 1% of earners from 50% to 45%.
In short this government is making those who can least afford to do so pay more, whilst those who can most afford to do so pay less. They are happy for the banks that caused this crisis to continue to make huge profits and pay vast bonuses whilst we still struggle to deal with the financial consequences of their actions. They are cutting your services and charging you for the privilege.
Don’t let them continue – join us and take action. Concessions on the Bedroom Tax show that we can win when enough people get together and say loudly and strongly that enough is enough and we won’t consent to this anymore.
The next anti-austerity events in Birmingham are on Saturday 16th March:
10am – 4pm: Councillors Against The Cuts National Conference
3pm – 6pm: All Birmingham Anti-Cuts Conference
Then budget day is on the 20th March, and PCS will be on strike against austerity that day. Events in Birmingham are to be confirmed but keep the date in mind.