Poll Tax Again




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

Deficit reduction hits the poor hardest

I share the view of the Pro-Housing Alliance in their submission to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards: the moral collapse in the banking industry began in the 1980s when Parliament deregulated lending, abolished rent controls and allowed the free movement of capital in and out of the UK. It is as if Moses went back up Mount Sinai, deregulated the Ten Commandments – and then wondered why there was so much theft, etc. The Libor scandal is the culmination of a long period of deterioration during which making profit overrode morality.

The Zacchaeus 2000 Trust serves the very poorest citizens of London struggling with a complex benefit system. The abolition of rent controls by the 1979 government, about which the 1997 government did nothing, hit housing benefit claimants very hard when the bankers’ bubble exploded in 2008.The massive increase in private sector house prices, due to reckless lending into a market in short supply, had contributed substantially to the increase in rents and therefore in housing benefit payments; they rose in billions every year, from £5.4 billion in 1986/7 to a planned £19.7 billion in 2007/8 to £21 billion in 2009/10, simply increasing the profits of private landlords.

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Please donate to our Relief from Poverty fund

On Monday 21st May Z2K staff and volunteers will take part in the 10km London Legal Walk to raise money for our Relief from Poverty Fund, for which we have no specific funding. Below are two examples of how we have used a fund in the past. It is used to make one off payments to temporarily help clients with no other source of income. Unfortunately we are seeing demand for this increase all the time.

You can donate by following the link:


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Comment on the Riots Communities and Victims Panel report

The following letter was published in the Guardian last week:

The Riots Communities and Victims Panel calls poverty a key factor that can lead to a person’s involvement in crime. The panel recommends that efforts are made to improve young people’s resistance to the peer pressure that leads them astray. That does not get to the bottom of the problem. Nowhere in the report is there any mention of the actual level of weekly income at which young people live in poverty.

A single unemployed parent has to live on a shrinking jobseeker’s allowance of £67.50 a week, or £53.45 for those aged 18-25, or on the national minimum wage, a poverty wage in London that is also shrinking. The word “debt”, and its debilitating effects on parents and children in poverty, never appears in the report. It damages nutrition, an essential ingredient of healthy babies and a good education, which is likewise ignored. Blaming the schools misses the target. Parliament needs to wake up to the fact that the current system of social security is not fit for purpose.

There will continue to be impoverished young people who, because survival and inequality are massive issues in this very expensive economy, will turn to crime.
Rev Paul Nicolson

Marmot: new data on the link between wealth and health inequalities

This morning Sir Michael Marmot published data showing how unequal health outcomes are between the richest and poorest parts of the country. Life expectancy and time spent in good health are shown to be heavily linked to social standing.

Some key point picked out by Randeep Ramesh in today’s Guardian are:

  1. 60% of five-year-olds in some of Britain’s poorest areas do not reach a “good level” of behaviour and understanding – double that found in wealthier suburban parts of England.
  2. Marmot, a public health specialist and author of Fair Society, Healthy Lives, said: “Education and child development are key for health. It is the educated who stop smoking … we know the key driver of teenage pregnancy is not getting early child development. You are not going to get pregnant as a teenager if you develop as a child.”
  3. There was also an alarming health gap opening up within areas. Marmot pointed out that in [Z2K’s home borough of] Westminster the average life expectancy of male residents was 83, five years longer than the English norm, but this masked wide disparities. The poorest in the London borough could expect to live 17 years less than the richest.

This evidence futher supports the need to support a minimum income standard across the UK so that people can afford to feed them selves and thier children a healthy diet, heat thier homes and while staying out of debt. The to the UK of failing to do this are currently  unpriced but likely to be large. The government already predicts that mental health (which is strongly linked to debt) costs the economy £105 Billion a year.

We must hope that the Welfare Reform Bill, due for publication next week, recognises the negative implications for everyone of imposing poverty incomes on the poorest.