IN THE 1990s 20% OF THE POLL TAX WAS LEVIED ON UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS.
2013 WILL SEE MANY COUNCILS “POLL TAXING” CURRENT BENEFITS AND THE UNIVERSAL CREDIT.
Many local authorities will begin taxing the poorest English citizens for the first time from April 2013, due to the government’s localisation policy and the 10% cut in central government funding of Council Tax Benefit (CTB).
The benefits provided by the DWP which trigger the CTB paid by the local authorities are currently called the “applicable amount”. Under the Universal Credit they will be called the “maximum amount”. It is the aim of the DWP/DCLG that they should be broadly equivalent amounts.
For example CTB will apply to the current JSA, and future UC, of £111.45 a week for a couple without any children, whether the claimant is receiving UC or JSA; they will run concurrently from April 13 until 2017 or until the UC is fully rolled out across England.
However, in this new era of localisation, the principle seems to have emanated from the DCLG that everyone must pay something and 20% of the council tax for the poorest citizens is the favoured option among the 64 current proposals by local authorities reviewed by the New Policy Institute. That is an exact repeat of the poll tax.
So £111.45 a week JSA/UC will be taxed by up to £5 a week by some councils from April 2013. Many CTB claimants will not be able to pay because:
- Benefits have been reduced since the move from RPI to CPI in April 2011;
- Many claimants will have rent arrears due to the housing benefit caps;
- The £500 cap on all benefits will hit large families with high rents;
- Benefits are being reduced by government while the prices of necessities, such a food, fuel, clothes and transport, are increased by the market;
- Safety nets like the social fund have been abolished;
- Donald Hirsch, who manages the JRF minimum income standards at Loughborough, calculates that a single adult receiving £71 JSA/UC a week, after rent and council tax, needs the JRF minimum income standard of £91.58 a week just to pay for food, fuel, clothes and transport – so a couple without children are already around £18 a week short of the minimum they need;
- and a further £10 billion is to be taken out of benefits by the Chancellor.
When people cannot pay the council tax then councils have to apply to the magistrates for liability orders adding up to £120 to the tax; the bailiffs will be sent in adding a further £75 to £210 depending on whether visits are made.
These unmanageable debts create mental health problems and severe stress for the family and damage the education of children. “There are 30,000 children in London who don’t have winter coats. Do you think you could help me find 3,000?” Camilla Batmanghelidjh told the Sunday Times last year. She is reported verbatim in The Guardian blog on 7th December 2011 saying:
“I think the riots of the summer, whatever narrative you put on it, whether you blame the police or anyone else, were profoundly about revenge – about young people’s revenge about society, because they felt so powerless and so not thought about.”
In their recent report on the new local council tax support schemes published the New Policy Institute concludes that of the options chosen by the council:
“…by far the most significant is the first under which all working-age adults, however low their income, will have to pay a minimum amount of council tax, typically 20% of what would be the normal amount for their home. This represents the return of one of the principles of the community charge or poll tax which was the basis for local taxation in England for just three years from 1990 to 1992”