Tag Archives: Welfare Reforms
You can read more about the bedroom tax, and the “spare” rooms that aren’t spare in these posts – More concessions show we can defeat the bedroom tax and Birmingham bedroom tax demonstration.
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
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.