Thursday, 1 November 2012

Haringey Council Tax Benefit Reductions to Cause Increase in Poverty

A local activist writes an open letter to Haringey council opposing their proposed reductions to Council Tax Benefit:

I am a resident of Tottenham, living at 93 Campbell Road, N17 0BF; I pay the full rate of Council Tax (CT) for this property. I am responding to the Haringey Council's consultation about the abolition of the national council tax benefit (CTB), and about Haringey’s proposals to replace it with their local scheme.

I write to oppose your proposals on the grounds that the 25,560 households, who now pay no council tax will have to pay 20%, or around £300pa, from April 2013.

It is irrational on three grounds;

•benefits are paid by the Department of Work and Pensions to our poorest fellow citizens to provide the necessities of life; they are already inadequate in work and out of work and the benefit claimants' health and well being will put at risk, as will their children's education, by taxing those benefit incomes. 

 •there are so many cuts to benefits being made by the Department of Work and Pensions to the already inadequate benefit incomes that the risks of ill-health mentioned in (1) are multiplied.

•the stress of enforcement in families who cannot pay places expensive demands on the mental and physical health services and the schools

 •no account has been taken of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation minimum income standards which underline the inadequacy of the benefits before they are taxed.

•the increasing number of calls on the three food banks in the Borough are further evidence that benefit claimants will not be able to pay the council tax

Haringey is also abolishing the CTB for an unspecified number of people whose level of savings is currently over £10,000 by cutting the level of entitlement from £16,000. The council has not provided enough information to enable anyone to make a decision about whether this policy is rational or not; this is not a valid consultation.

The council says it is consulting all residents; how is the council ensuring that commitment is being kept?

In 1989 the Thatcher government added an amount to unemployment benefit to help them pay the poll tax; there is no sign of that in Haringey today.

Haringey has not carried out an assessment of the cumulative impact of the measures taken by the DWP to cut the benefits of 25,560 Haringey residents they now propose to tax; the measures impacting on the income of benefit claimants are;

1. The rate of increase of already inadequate benefits has been reduced by the move of uprating from RPI to CPI in April 2011, while prices of food and fuel escalate,

2. Housing benefit caps,

3. Bedroom tax,

4. £500 cap on all benefits.

5. Nationally sanctions now stop or reduce benefit payments for between 2 weeks and six months. 508,000 benefit sanctions were handed out in 2011, a rise from the 139,000 imposed in 2009. Many sanctions have been applied in the borough of Haringey.

6. The social fund has been abolished.

The local authorities will charge inevitable defaulters around £70 for a liability order from the magistrate’s courts, on top of the CT arrears, they and the advice sector, already overwhelmed will be swamped. The bailiffs charge defaulters up to £400 more.

Written by Rev Paul Nicolson, a local non party political aligned Haringey activist.

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