Tagged: support

Poor Face Higher Council Tax Bills, Warns LGA

Low-income working families and people in receipt of social security benefits may have to pay higher council tax bills, warns the Local Government Association (LGA).

A shortfall in Government funding for Council Tax support has left local authorities having to divert money away from local services. This means that some councils may be forced to ask those earning the least to pay more Council Tax, says the LGA.

The Tory-led coalition Government abolished Council Tax Benefit in 2013 as part of widespread changes to the welfare system, resulting in a large number of low-income families having to pay Council Tax for the very first time.

Council Tax support helps the poorest households with a discount on their bill, but the LGA says “uncertainties” over funding from central Government leaves councils “little choice but to reduce the discount”.

Councils would need to find an additional £1 billion to keep Council Tax discounts at the same level they were before Council Tax Benefit was axed, says the LGA.

At a time when local authorities are being asked to find £2.6 billion in savings due to an 8.8% cut in overall funding, councils are now asking the least well-off in society – who would have previously been exempt – to come up with ‘minimum’ Council Tax payments.

The LGA report ‘lays bare’ the impact of axing Council Tax Benefit and a lack of funding support on some of the poorest in society.

Some of the key findings of the report are:

  • A total of 45 councils out of 326 continue to provide the same level of discount available under the old council tax benefit regime – 13 fewer than in 2013/14.
  • In 244 council areas, all householders have to pay at least some council tax regardless of income – 15 more than in 2013/14.
  • For 2015/16, one in seven councils (14 per cent) said they definitely plan to change their discount scheme. 83 per cent said they would not change their existing discount scheme, despite funding reductions.
  • Beyond 2015/16, only 27 per cent of councils said they would maintain their current scheme. Most were unable to say. This is likely to be due to uncertainties over future funding for local government.
  • Last year’s decline in council tax collection rates – only the second since 1993 – was bigger in areas where newly introduced minimum payments were higher.

Councils are left with a choice on whether to charge the working age poor Council Tax, or find additional savings from local services on top of the 40% already demanded by the Government.

The LGA said that while some councils have been able to cover some of the shortfall in Council Tax support by scraping automatic Council Tax discounts on second homes, it isn’t enough to completely fill the funding gap.

Other councils have introduced ‘hardship funds’ to give the worst affected households longer to catch up with missed payments.

The LGA is urging whoever is in power after the next general election to fund Council Tax support to the same level as under Council Tax Benefit.

Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the LGA, said:

Government reduced funding for council tax support by hundreds of millions of pounds when it handed the responsibility for administering it to councils.

“As a result, councils would need to find £1 billion by 2016 to protect discounts for those on low incomes. At a time when local government is already tackling £20 billion worth of cuts, this is a stretch too far.

“Many councils have been put in an impossible position. This cut has taken millions of pounds out of funding for local services and increased the cost of living for some of society’s poorest.

“No one wants to ask those on the lowest incomes to pay more. But faced with significant cuts to the money we receive to look after the elderly, protect children, repair the roads and collect the bins, many councils have had little choice but to reduce the discount.

“Councils know how tough things are, and are doing their best to protect those affected the most, whether through introducing hardships funds or changing the way we collect unpaid tax. But these measures can only go so far in alleviating the burden.

“To address this unfairness, government must give local areas the full amount of funding required to provide council tax support to those who need it. Otherwise, it is almost inevitable that further cuts to local government funding in the coming years will further force up bills for those who can least afford to pay.”

> Which is, of course, part of The Plan – make the poorest pay the most and at the same time they’ll get less because councils will continue to close libraries, etc.

And no doubt councils will still find the money to take non-payers to court, as they did with the Poll Tax (I know – I was one of them).

Source – Welfare Weekly, 06 Jan 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/poor-face-higher-council-tax-bills-warns-lga/

Art attack on Coalition policies that drive people to their deaths

Vox Political

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A UK artist has created an art installation as a memorial to the suicide victims of welfare reform.

Melanie Cutler contacted Vox Political regarding her piece – ‘Stewardship’ – a few weeks ago, asking, “Do you think I’ll be arrested?”

The response was that it should be unlikely if she informed the media. The artworks have been displayed at the Northampton Degree Show and are currently at the Free Range Exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery building in Brick Lane, London, which ends tomorrow (June 30).

Entry is free and the installation will be located in F Block, B5.

“I have become an artist later on in life,” Melanie told Vox Political. “I was a carer for my son and, a few decades later, my father. I have worked most of my life too, raising three children.

“Only recently, while studying fine art at University I found my health…

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Why Labour SHOULD be ‘the party of welfare’

Vox Political

[Image: Redpepper] [Image: Redpepper] What follows is intelligent, adroit and not mine. It was written by Bernadette Meaden on the Ekklesia website and passed on to me by a mutual friend.

It constitutes what I think may be a complete answer and refutation of ‘accusations’ that the Labour Party is the so-called ‘party of welfare’. Tories love to bandy this about as though it is an insult. What they don’t tell you is that their alternative is abject poverty for all but an elite few.

I’m jumping ahead of myself. Here’s what Bernadette had to say:

“Conservative MPs frequently say that the Conservatives are the party of ‘hardworking people’, and the Labour Party is ‘the party of welfare’. It’s said as an accusation, an insult, and many Labour MPs take it as such, attempting to deny the charge as if it’s something to be ashamed of.

I would like to see Labour…

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Coalition to impose sanctions on housing benefit

Vox Political

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Part-time workers who are judged to be doing too little to find full-time work could have their Housing Benefit sanctioned by the government when Universal Credit comes into full force, according to Inside Housing.

The revelation is the latest in a long line of benefit betrayals to be inflicted on the poor by the Coalition government. The new development also means landlords stand to lose out.

The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed to Inside Housing that under Universal Credit, where a tenant is working less than 35 hours per week at minimum wage and is not eligible for JSA or ESA, then the housing element can be sanctioned instead.

It seems clear that the government is determined that it should be able to take income away from everyone who is not being properly paid by their employer. Does this seem fair to you?

Under the present system…

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Cameron’s ‘mission’ is morally bankrupt

Vox Political

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When David Cameron stands up in all his hypocrisy and tells you that tearing apart the basic safety net that guaranteed people would not be left in hunger or destitution is part of his “moral mission”, even die-hard Tories should agree that the country has taken a turn for the worse.

When he defends an administration that has become so punitive that applicants who don’t get it right have to wait without food for months at a time, by claiming he is doing “what is right”, even die-hard Tories should agree that the man who claims he is Prime Minister has diverged from reality.

That is precisely what he has done, and you can bet that the Tory diehards will quietly go along with it because they think it is far better for other people to lose their lives than it is for their government to lose face.

Cameron has…

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Delights – and disgraces – of the Atos day of protest

Vox Political

Taking sides: Some of the demonstrators at Newtown, Powys. [Image: Mike Sivier] Taking sides: Some of the demonstrators at Newtown, Powys. [Image: Mike Sivier] Were you one of the many, many people – both able-bodied and with disabilities – who gathered outside Atos assessment centres yesterday to demand an end to the system that continues to cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people every day?

I was.

I attended one of the 144 locations used by Atos to carry out the discredited work capability assessments – in Newtown, Powys – where I was just another face in the crowd that had gathered to remind the public of the atrocity being carried out with their tax money.

The Newtown campaign was undoubtedly small in comparison to others around the country, with a maximum of 15 protesters at its height, but the public response was excellent. The assessment centre is next to a major traffic junction, meaning there were plenty of opportunities to…

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Private company given contract to harass the long-term sick

Vox Political

The Department for Work and Pensions is setting up a new “service” offering “advice” to people who are off work with an illness for more than four weeks.

No reference is made to improving people’s health.

It should also be noted that sickness absence in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, and has halved over the past decade.

The announcement was made on the BBC News website shortly after midnight. Nothing has appeared on the Government’s own website so it seems the Corporation has gone back to being Westminster’s poodle again – breaking news for the government in order to give spin doctors time to assess the reaction and then write a press release that is more acceptable to the public.

The Health and Work Service will be a privately-run operation covering England, Wales and Scotland, offering “non-compulsory” medical assessments and “treatment plans”. This is reminiscent of the…

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Send your ESA/WCA experiences to the new MP inquiry

“In case they’ve grown back” (picture at top of post) may be meant as humour, but something very similar has actually happened with Atos. See – https://unemployedtynewear.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/atos-expecting-miracles/

Vox Political

The government wouldn’t do it – so an influential Parliamentary committee has decided to launch its own inquiry into Employment and Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment that determines eligibility for it.

I will be submitting evidence to this inquiry and I strongly suggest that, if you have a story to tell, then you should provide evidence as well.

According to the Parliament.uk website, the decision to undertake an inquiry from today (February 6) was made in light of recent developments including the publication of several reviews of the WCA, expressions of concern from DWP regarding Atos’s performance in delivering the WCA, and the introduction of mandatory reconsideration.

Submissions of no more than 3,000 words are invited from interested organisations and individuals.

The Committee is particularly interested to hear views on:

  • Delivery of the WCA by Atos, including steps taken to improve the claimant experience
  • The effectiveness of…

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No protection from Bedroom Tax for the vulnerable as it would cause ‘political embarrassment’

Vox Political

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Vulnerable children and adults with disabilities or high support needs may be forced to pay the Bedroom Tax, despite protestations to the contrary by Lord Freud, after it was revealed that creating more protections would cause ‘political embarrassment’.

Current rules mean some supported housing is protected from the Bedroom Tax, benefit cap and the effects of Universal Credit (if a working version ever arrives) – but this accommodation is not exempted if the landlord is not the care provider or when the landlord is a local authority.

This means that, for example, supported housing provider Habinteg has 1,200 wheelchair-accessible properties for the disabled – but only 516 of them are exempt from the benefit changes.

Lord Freud, who is minister for social security reform, said last April that the DWP was working to ensure all supported accommodation would be protected from what he called the “unintended consequences” of the government’s…

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What you’re not being told about Europe’s verdict on social security

Vox Political

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“Manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They are the Council of Europe’s verdict on the UK’s social security system of payments for jobseekers, pensioners and recipients of both short- and long-term incapacity benefit.

The Council, an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation, is home to the European Court of Human Rights.

The finding was made in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European Social Charter. If the UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government takes no action to rectify the situation, then the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers may address a recommendation to the UK, asking it to change the situation in law or in practice. This is clearly a weak way of handling a situation…

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