Labour Demand Conservatives Withdraw “unacceptable” changes to Council Tax Reduction Scheme

Labour Councillors have demanded that the Conservative led council in Dartford halt sweeping changes to a scheme that provides Council Tax relief for those with the lowest household incomes, amid fears the changes will plunge hard working families into poverty. The Conservatives are also attempting to align their own scheme with the introduction of the much delayed and criticised rollout of the governments Universal Credit.

The Conservative proposals include

  • The introduction of wage bands which mean that a single person earning £75 a week would be liable to pay 20% of their Council Tax whilst if they earn £80 a week they would be liable to pay 40%. Similarly, a couple or lone parent earning £235 would pay 20% but if they earn £240 they would be liable for 40%. On the average Band D property this would lead to an additional £330 of Council Tax being due for an annual increase in earnings of just £260. The Tories are also proposing to end Council Tax relief where a family has a third dependent child.
  • A massive reduction to the amount of savings a person can have before they qualify for council tax relief from £16,000 to just £6,000.
  • A proposal to stop checking any of the information used to assess the reductions made with information being taken directly from DWP. Any error made by DWP would automatically be mirrored in Council’s own calculations.

These changes will penalise those families who are in employment, but in the lowest paid work and will be a huge disincentive for people to move to higher paid work or take on more hours. The Council’s own modelling has shown they expect the changes to disproportionately negatively impact women with more than 2 children and the Council expect an increase in exceptional hardship applications.

These are unacceptable proposals that penalise people in work, on low wages who want to do the right thing and save to plan for future

This week’s report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted that 1 in 8 people in Work are now living in poverty. It also highlighted that

  • Child poverty has been rising since 2011/12;
  • 4.1 million children are living in poverty, a rise of 500,000 in the last five years;
  • Four million workers are living in poverty –a rise of more than half a million over five years; and
  • In-work poverty has been rising even faster than employment, driven almost entirely by increasing poverty among working parents.
"Labour Councillors are standing up for those most vulnerable in our community"
"Labour Councillors are standing up for those most vulnerable in our community"

Jonathon Hawkes (above), Leader of the Labour Group at Dartford Borough Council commented:

“These changes are being implemented to cut the cost of administering Council Tax relief which is being forced up by the botched introduction of Universal Credit. It’s unacceptable that the Tories propose to make those savings off the backs of some of the poorest families in Dartford. 

The changes negatively impact the most vulnerable in our community and increasingly the most vulnerable in our community include thousands of Dartford residents who are in work and trying to achieve a better standard of living for themselves and their family. It makes no sense to penalise people who want to take on more hours or save for the future – but that’s exactly what this flawed scheme does.  Dartford Conservatives should drop it.

We know that in work poverty is rising, we’ve seen that the use of food banks is increasing – this scheme risks driving more people to food banks and plunging more people into poverty. That’s why Labour is calling on Jeremy Kite and the Conservatives to withdraw this proposal and work with us to develop a scheme that provides support to the most vulnerable and does not provide a financial penalty to those in part time work looking to take on more hours.”

Notes:

Cabinet Report – Page 191 , Agenda Item 12 http://committeedmz.dartford.gov.uk/documents/g2727/Public%20reports%20pack%20Monday%2003-Dec-2018%2019.00%20Cabinet%20Advisory%20Panel%20B.pdf?T=10

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