Press Release: Z2K Slams Hackney’s Plans to cut Council Tax Support

London-wide anti-poverty charity, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), today attacked Hackney council’s plans to increase its tax on the Social Security benefits of the borough’s poorest residents.  The plans, which were announced in a consultation launched last week, include a proposal to increase the charge for disabled and unemployed residents from 15 per cent of Council Tax to 20 per cent.

Responding to the consultation’s announcement, Z2K Chief Executive, Raji Hunjan, said:

“It is absurd that Hackney Council should consider increasing its Council Tax charges for those on Social Security benefits, when all the evidence points to the fact that many of those already living in poverty cannot afford the additional tax burden.”

“While we understand that Hackney, like all London boroughs, has lost significant grant funding, we do not accept that this should impact disproportionately on those who are already living below the poverty line.  All the evidence shows that hiking Council Tax charges for those on benefits increases the danger of those households falling into problem debt.”

“Hackney’s original decision to charge has already left tens of thousands of local families and vulnerable single people facing a choice between eating, heating and paying its poll tax.  Thousands of those have been sent into a spiral of unsustainable debt or harassed by bailiffs.  Increasing that tax by a third next year risks tipping thousands more households into the arms of payday lenders or worse.”

Z2K has also disclosed statistics from Freedom of Information requests that reveal Hackney still has one of the harshest enforcement regimes in London.  In the past four years, it has issued a court summons against nearly 25,000 households in receipt of Council Tax Support who had fallen into arrears – increasing their bill by another £100 in the process.  Worse still, it has instructed bailiffs against more than 5,000 of those households – doubling the debt again.

Hackney’s consultation comes at a time when other nearby London boroughs have decided against taxing the Social Security benefits of their poorest residents.  Last year, Camden scrapped its own 8.5 per cent charge completely after realising it was simply driving its poorest residents deeper into poverty.  And earlier this year, neighbouring Tower Hamlets Council dropped its plans to introduce a 20 per cent tax after huge public and political outcry in response to a consultation.

Summarising Z2K’s opposition to Hackney’s plans, Raji Hunjan concluded:

“The Government’s localisation of Council Tax Benefit has been an absolute disaster from day one – reintroducing the discredited Poll Tax by the back door.  We urge Hackney councillors across the political spectrum to reject these dreadful plans and encourage local community groups, advice agencies and individual residents to respond to the consultation.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

 

  1. The national system of Council Tax Benefit was abolished by the Local Government Finance Act 2012, and local authorities were required to establish their own local scheme from April 2013 onwards.

 

  1. Hackney’s consultation is available online at:

http://news.hackney.gov.uk/have-your-say-on-proposed-changes-to-hackneys-council-tax-reduction-scheme/

 

  1. Analysis of the impact of “localising” Council Tax Support in London has been conducted by Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) and the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).  Our most recent research report is available at:

 

http://z2k.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/StillTooPoor_web_update5Oct16.pdf

 

  1. The total number of court summons issued against households in receipt of Council Tax Support in Hackney between 2013/14 and 2016/17 was 24,795 made up of the following annual figures – 7,502 (2013/14); 6,231 (2014/15); 6,036 (2015/16) and 5,206 (2016/17).

 

  1. The total number of households in receipt of Council Tax Support who had bailiffs instructed against them by LB Hackney was 5,069 made up of the following annual figures – 1,874 (2013/14); 1,115 (2014/15); 1,210 (2015/16) and 870 (2016/17).

 

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About Marc Francis

Marc leads on all of Z2K’s campaigning. He was formerly the Housing & Neighbourhoods Policy Advisor at Save the Children and before that, Public Affairs Manager at Shelter, leading its successful campaigns for mandatory Tenancy Deposit Protection by private landlords and against the use of Bed & Breakfast accommodation for homeless families.

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