Monday, 23 July 2012


I'd like to hear your views on the impending catastrophe which Eric Pickles is brewing up. It's reckoned to be a second poll tax fiasco. It will start next April and then the country will start to fall apart as people who can no longer afford to live in certain areas will either up and leave, or take up residence in the streets, crowd in to live with friends and relatives 3, 4 5 to a bed, give up their part time badly paid jobs. And the situation won't look that different to how the poor lived 100 years ago.

It has to do with Council Tax Relief.

Firstly it is important to understand some facts about Council Tax Relief:

1. It is for the poorest people only. it is means tested and graduated.
2. 5.9 million households throughout the UK receive it to some degree.
3. Half the recipients are pensioners on very low incomes (state pension and not much else).
4. The majority of the non-pensioner recipients are in very low paid work (not as you might think, benefits).
5. It is funded by the DWP, but paid by local councils.

Here's how it will (or rather won't) work.

1. Each council area will receive the amount they got before, minus 10%.
2. They must ensure that pensioners do not get less than they got before.
3. They must ensure that "vulnerable" people do not get less than they got before.
4. There is no standard definition for "vulnerable".
5. What is left can be shared by the people who are working (or on the dole).

Now, it seems to me that if you have the same number of people after April as you did before April, and you have 10% less funding, but around 50% of your claimants fall into categories which must have their benefit preserved, the people who do NOT have their benefit preserved will have it reduced by 20%.

If you are unlucky to live in an area with a high population of elderly poor, then it may be more of a reduction, 30% or more. It is reckoned, for example, that people in Haringey in London will lose on average £38 a week.

OK, remember what we said. Most of them are low paid workers. Cleaners, shop workers who are only getting part time work and are forced to take that by the job centre. If they lose £20, £30, £40 a week, how the hell are they going to get to work and feed their kids and  keep them warm?

What will happen if a factory closes in an area throwing 400 people onto the dole. Will everyone who is not old nor vulnerable lose even more money as the pot has further to go round.

If new disabled or old people move into the area will the non aged or non-vulnerable have to take a drop. And what if a load of old folk die... will everyone get a rise?

Is this seriously a good idea, or is it another of these things that Pickles worked out on back of a pâté de fois gras box while tippling from the cheap champagne his government department canteen sold until last week?

Will this not do exactly the opposite of what Iain Duncan Smith wanted?

Will it not make it too expensive to take work?

And what of all the cleaners and canteen assistants, like the ones who work for minimum wage in the Royal palace of Westminster? Will they be able to afford to continue coming to work, or will Mr Pickles have to wash his own dishes and clean his own office?

The Bill is being taken through a committee in the Lords at the moment, until very recently by Earl Atlee, who appears not to have inherited any of his grandfather's intelligence. He got in a bit of a mes with it and had to be removed after he said that they needed to save the money to pay for the English railways, when Justine Greening has said that the fares would have to go up to pay for that... Sheesh...

As I understand it, in a move typical of the Scottish government, not welcomed with as much enthusiasm as I would have expected by dour faced Ms Lamont, Mr Swinney has been able to find enough money in his limited budget to ensure that this will not affect Scottish council tax claimants for the first year.

Once again social democracy in Scotland; misery for millions in England.

You may be interested in this demonstration, highlighted by Cynical Highlander just as the last post was being superseded.