Saturday, 13 November 2010

Council Tax Benefit Goes Local

The ConDem government has announced that the amount of Council Tax Benefit (CTB) from 2013 onwards will be decided by local authorities. This is being ‘sold’ by the government as part of its localisation agenda, allowing local councils to decide more policies for their areas. The Green party has long advocated transferring political power to its lowest, local level, but this policy is an extremely damaging one, and the government has another, barely hidden agenda in wanting to facilitate it.

Like everything that comes out of the ConDem government, this policy shift is all about saving money at the expense of the poorest people in the country. CTB is paid to the unemployed, and workers and pensioners on low incomes. This is how CTB will change if the ConDems get their way.

At present CTB is administered by local authorities but the entire funding comes from central government. The proposed changes will see local authorities getting a ‘grant’ from central government, similar to the present arrangements, but this grant will be 10% less than that which they currently receive. From there on in, it is down the local authority to pay this benefit.

Clearly, if local councils want to maintain payments at current levels, then they will have to find the money elsewhere in their budgets. This is not a realistic proposition for councils at present (or in 2013) as pressure is on them to make savings in all service areas, as part of central government’s budget deficit reduction programme. So it is pretty much nailed on that CTB will be reduced in most areas by at least 10%.

I say at least 10%, because it is likely to be reduced further in some local authorities because the change proposal also allows councils to set the amount of CTB that they pay to claimants. They can even pay no CTB if they so decide, and you can imagine Tory and Lib Dem run councils thinking that they can pass on savings in CTB by setting a lower Council Tax. Thus, yet again money will be transferred from those on the lowest incomes to those on higher incomes. It will make Tory and Lib Dem voters happy, and those on CTB who will suffer, well, they probably vote Labour or Green anyway, so who cares?

It is also likely to add to the social cleansing agenda that will reduce Housing Benefit (HB) which I blogged about previously here, with CTB claimants being forced out of areas that do not pay CTB, and into (poorer) areas that may continue to pay the benefit at anything like its full rate.

This very important change to the benefit system has gone hardly reported in the media, although admittedly there are many important benefit changes being proposed by the ConDem government, but these fundamental changes to a vital benefit must be opposed by all fair minded people. If they get away this, our nation will be divided and into comfortable areas and poverty stricken ghettos.


Mark @ Israel said...

If this is going to be the scenario when this proposal for the CTB pushes through, then we should do something to stop this important change from happening. If it will only make matters worst for the poor in this country, then it's good for nothing and it's useless.

Mike Shaughnessy said...

Yes Mark, we must try to stop this, but we will probably need to bring the government down to stop it.