From April, the system of funding council tax benefit is being “devolved” to local authorities, but with only 90% of funds being made available.
Thus, every local authority will face a 10% shortfall which has to be made up. It is to be left up to individual councils to decide how to do this, but it will almost certainly mean that those who pay no or very little council tax will lose some of the benefit they currently receive.
Because of “redistributive factors”, and certain exemptions that will remain, this loss will be substantially higher than 10%.
This cut, coming on top of all the other cuts, severely limits the alternatives open to councils, and is particularly pernicious because it will hurt (indeed, it is designed to hurt) the very poorest and most vulnerable in society.
Moreover, according to the government’s impact assessment of the 660,000 households adversely affected, 420,000 contain someone who is disabled — people who are likely to already be suffering from government attacks on benefits.
Already, residents are mounting legal challenges against five councils (Birmingham, Hackney, Haringey, Rochdale, and Sheffield).
Lawyer Alex Rook said: “Residents are facing a postcode lottery as to how the new council tax rebate system will be implemented. People living across the road from each other but in different boroughs could face a significantly different council tax bill because different councils have different policies.
“Some councils are passing on cuts from the Government to everyone other than pensioners, hitting the poorest hardest. Our clients are devastated at the thought of this additional burden when they are already struggling to pay for basics such as food and heating.”
This must be seen in the context of the Tory onslaught against the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, the closure of critically-needed hospitals, the proposed skyrocketing rent increase, and George Osborne’s deliberate destruction of hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs. All while the Tories give tax concessions to multimillionaires.
The Tories are encouraged and emboldened in their attacks by the timidity of the Labour Party and union leaders.
We need a national campaign of resistance, linking up, involving, and mobilising all those under attack, led by trade unions, to reverse the Tory onslaught and save the welfare state.