Tag Archives: council tax benefit

Labour Get Extra Funding To Increase Council Tax Benefit

Back in January, when Labour announced how they were going to deal with the localisation of Council Tax Benefit (now called Council Tax Support) and the 10% cut in funding that came with it, they decided to impose 20% charges on all unemployed and some disabled people in the city, whilst neighbouring councils absorbed the cut into their budgets, possibly in expectation that 84% of people would be unable to pay the charge and that court action would be financially unviable. Strangely, having cut the amount of benefit being paid, the coalition offered some transitional funding worth £2.1m for one year to reduce the amount cut. At the time, the Labour council here turned this down due to the conditions attached to accepting the money.

Yesterday however it was announced that Labour have now decided to accept this money, reducing the charge from 20% to 8.5%. This is an excellent move by the council, even though the money is only for one year, it provides breathing space for claimants who are already struggling with food, rent and energy price rises, a real terms benefit cut and for many the bedroom tax as well.

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So Sneaky – Council Tax And Disability In Birmingham

We’ve recieved this letter regarding the cuts to council tax benefit which will see unemployed and some disabled people having to find 20% of their council tax bill out of their benefits. You can check if you are eligible for continuing exemption from council tax you can check with the council benefit team through this webpage.

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Council Tax Support – Bore’s Poll Tax?

Birmingham’s Labour Councillors voted unanimously to pass on a £200+ charge to social security claimants living in the city at January’s Council meeting. Claimants will be charged 20% of the cost of their Council Tax from 1st April. For a claimant living in a Band C property this will be the equivalent of £5.17 a week. Pensioners are exempted from these changes.

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Consultation Rejects Council Tax Benefit Cuts

The last consultation meeting on Birmingham City Council’s plans for its Council Tax benefit scheme took place on Thursday in the city centre.

As at previous consultation meetings there was enormous anger at the proposal to make people on income support and Job Seekers Allowance pay an average of £5 a week council tax. It was pointed out that with cuts in other benefits such as housing benefit, and general reductions in benefits as part of the Universal Credit, these people were absolutely unable to pay more without facing starvation.

Many people contended that with the costs of debt collection, and the increase in crime, family breakdown, and homelessness the policy would cost more than the money raised. A recent survey showed that councils expect 50% of people will refuse to pay the new charge. Other councils such as Walsall, Dudley and Solihull have decided to absorb the cut in funding and provide the same council tax benefit as before, but this could involve other cuts in services. The real solution was to confront the unfair policy of the government and force it to change course.

About sixty people took part and they unanimously passed the following motion from supporters of BATC:

This meeting agrees

  • To condemn the government’s decision to reduce Council Tax benefit for poor people and demand that the policy is reversed
  • To call on Birmingham Labour Council to absorb the cuts in Council Tax benefit funding so Birmingham’s poor continue to pay no council tax.
  • To call on the council to issue a press statement to report the discussion and the passing of this motion

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Come to the City Centre Council Tax Benefit Cut Consultation on 18th October

Council tax benefit cuts are set to cost unwaged and low paid residents of Birmingham an average of £200/year. Birmingham Against the Cuts is calling for everyone who can to attend the consultation on council tax benefit cuts being held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute on Thursday 18th October from 6pm.

6pm
Birmingham and Midland Institute,
9 Margaret Street Birmingham, B3 3BS.

The BMI is wheelchair accessible, with temporary ramps available for stairways.

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.

If you can’t make it, you can complete a questionnaire online at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/bcccounciltaxsupport

The government are changing council tax benefit to Council Tax Support and passing responsibility for managing the benefit to local councils, but giving them 10% less money than was previously being paid in council tax benefit.
Council tax benefit is available to unemployed, disabled or low paid people as well as pensioners and carers. The coalition has said that pensioners cannot have their benefits cut, meaning that the whole 10% must be made up from working age claimants. At the tory conference this week George Osborne made a big show of saying council tax will be frozen, but neglected to mention that was not for the poorest in our communities.

You can read a letter from a Birmingham resident that details how this extra cost will affect him. Consultations held elsewhere in the city have seen large numbers of people turn up, angry about this, not knowing how they will afford to pay the extra money.
For those who can’t pay, there is the possibility of prosecution, though whether a council that cannot even make all of it’s own councillors pay will chase people for a couple of hundred quid – probably far less than the cost of taking someone to court – remains to be seen.
This comes on top of housing benefit cuts that have increased homelessness in Birmingham, and ahead of further welfare reforms with the introduction of Universal Credit next year, which will make child poverty targets “unachievable” and overwhelm advice services in Birmingham.

Freezing council tax wasn’t the only plan Osborne laid out at the Tory party conference this week. He also gave notice of a further £10bn in welfare cuts he wants to make, removing housing benefit from under-25s and restricting benefits for people with large families (who are already going to be caught by the £500/week benefit cap under Universal Credit).

With the ongoing attacks on disabled people in the form of ATOS and the soon coming 20% cut in Disability Living Allowance as it changes to Personal Independance Payment, the expanded workfare forced unpaid labour schemes, and 3 year benefit sanctions for jobseekers, the attacks on the welfare system must be resisted. There are free coach spaces available for unwaged and low paid people on Birmingham Trades Council and assorted union coaches going to the national TUC demonstration for A Future That Works in London on Saturday Oct 20th.

Before then, come and join us on the 18th to show that we will not sit back whilst our welfare state is torn to bits – and neither should our Labour council.

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Mistake On Your Benefits Form? That’ll Be A £50 Fine

From today, benefit claimants who make a mistake on their forms that leads to an overpayment can be fined £50 for it.. and before you ask, no, if the DWP make a mistake they aren’t going to give you £50.

The new rules state:

A new Civil Penalty of £50 is being introduced for claimants who incur an overpayment caused by:

  • either (a) negligently making incorrect statements and failing to take reasonable steps to correct the error
  • or (b) failing, without reasonable excuse, to provide information or to disclose changes in their circumstances.

The penalty will only be for cases of claimant error. If the claimant is successfully prosecuted for a fraud or offered an administrative penalty or caution they cannot then be issued with a Civil Penalty for the same offence.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will impose a Civil Penalty where appropriate whilst for Local Authorities it is a Permissive Power and they may impose a civil penalty.

With advice services expected to be overwhelmed by cases following welfare reforms being implemented next year, and already seeing huge rises in their casework load for benefits, combined with cuts in legal aid meaning that claimants won’t have access to justice for benefits cases, it is mad that a fine for making mistakes on your form is being implemented.
Benefit forms are long and complicated, and many people go to advice services to help them fill it in, particularly for disability benefits. Many will make errors leading to overpayments, and now will have to cope with losing an extra £50 on top of having to repay the overpayments out of their benefits.

Is this simply a cynical revenue raising exercise? It is hard to see what other purpose this can have, since anyone who fraudulently claims can already be prosecuted, and anyone else has simply made a mistake and will repay any overpayments. As such, placing a fine on this can only punish those who have made genuine errors, and is not going to reduce the amount of errors made. It is just another cut to benefits, another attack on claimants.

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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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Filed under Birmingham City Council, Cuts