DO YOU CLAIM COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT?
ONE IN FIVE LEWES HOUSEHOLDS DO.
ARE YOU UNDER PENSION AGE?
LEWES COUNCIL WANTS TO CUT YOUR BENEFIT!
From April Lewes District Council will set the rules for council tax benefit in the area instead of the government. Many low paid working people and those under pension age who cannot work rely on council tax benefit to pay their council tax. Here is what the council (along with other councils in East Sussex) proposes to do:
NO MORE THAN £20 PER WEEK COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT- HOWEVER POOR YOU ARE
Even if you are destitute you will not get more than £20 per week benefit. These figures show the current weekly rates of council tax for each band.
Band A … £20.09 – £21.61 Band E … £36.83 – £39.63
Band B … £23.43 – £25.22 Band F … £43.52 – £46.83
Band C … £26.78 – £28.82 Band G … £50.22 – £54.04
Band D … £30.13 – £32.42 Band H … £60.26 – £64.84
(figures vary according to the local parish rate)
So even people living in the most modest housing will lose out. Their benefit will not cover all of the council tax. Things will be worse for families, who need larger housing which tends to be in higher bands. Almost everyone who is unable to work will have to meet some of the council tax out of their personal benefits.
Heaven knows how the council will manage to collect the amount of council tax not covered by benefit. Mrs Thatcher lost her job largely because of rage about the community charge (poll tax) and the fact that councils could not collect the amounts of the charge not covered by benefit. Now the coalition government has ensured that it is local council members who will the subject of this rage.
IF YOU ARE ENTITLED TO LESS THAN £5 YOU DON’T GET IT.
When they work out how much benefit you are entitled to, if it is less than £5 per week you don’t get it. This will mostly affect people who work for low wages. £5 may not sound a lot, but if you are struggling on the minimum wage it could make working unviable.
EVEN LESS MONEY IF YOUR CHILDREN STILL LIVE AT HOME
If you have someone who is living with you who is not legally dependent on you your benefit is cut to cover the amount they are supposed to give you. (a non-dependent deduction) This happens even if they do not pay any money. This most commonly happens when working age children still live with their parents. The councils want to double the amount that will be taken off benefit in this situation. This is likely to lead to increased homelessness amongst young people, with extra costs to the council.
NO BENEFIT IF YOU HAVE SAVED A BIT
If you have savings of more than £6,000 and you are under pension age you will not get any benefit at all. Tough on those who make provision for a rainy day, but no problem for those who squander all their money.
WORSE TO COME FOR PEOPLE IN WORK?
If you are working and you earn more than you would get on benefits your council tax benefit is reduced. At the moment, for every pound that you take home over benefit level you lose 20p of your benefit. This is on top of the amount you will lose from tax, national insurance and universal credit (probably about 72p).
The council refuses to say whether it will change this. It doesn’t suggest that it could reduce the amount and the whole tone of the proposal is that things will get worse rather than better. So the deduction will be at least 20p in the pound. It could be as high as 25p in the pound, in which case why work? The council must come clean about what it proposes.
WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THIS?
A lot of the blame must go to the Coalition government. They have cut the grants paid to council to pay council tax benefit with by 10% and said that councils cannot cut benefit to pensioners. This means that councils must either savage benefit for working people or cut services or put the council tax up or all of these.
IS IT A DONE DEAL?
No. The council has just announced its proposals. It will finally decide in January. On the council’s web site there is a consultation that you can take part in- although they do not ask for your views about the rate of reduction for people in work.
WHAT CAN I DO?
By all means fill in the council’s consultation survey before the end of October, but also please let as many people as possible know what is happening. Please also contact your Lewes District Council member to let them know that this proposal is not on. No one likes putting up the council tax but this is the only alternative if we are all to take the strain rather than the most vulnerable in our community.
If you live in another area in East Sussex it is likely that your council are proposing the same system. If you live elsewhere find out what your council is doing and publicise it.