Council Tax Benefit – the alternatives and taking the fight to the Government

The proposals from Cornwall Council’s Cabinet on making all those of working age and in receipt of Council Tax Benefit (CTB) pay at least 20% of their Council Tax has not gone down well with those who will have to turn coal into a diamond to pay for this contribution. The council is in a tough position, thanks to the Government reducing the amount needed by £6m (12%).

But what are the alternatives? Well for the last two weeks I have looked line by line down various budgets and accounts looking for any money that could be better served on the CTB.  At first, I was heartened by the fact I found a pot of money that could be used and asked the Head of Finance if this money was a legitimate target. The reply was yes.

However, on looking more closely and with the help of the finance department, it soon became clear it was going to be difficult to make it pay in year one. Though from years 2/3 onwards, I could have got it down to a maximum contribution of 15%.

I could have made it work by reducing it to 20% contribution, but the pain in stripping so many projects of money would have been hard to justify. So, I have decided not to submit an alternative on those grounds alone. I have however, handed over all my data to others who are working on alternatives in the hope of this information might just help them in achieving a better solution that what is currently being proposed.

Fear not, I have not given up completely, as I have one further option. Granted it is fairly radical, and I am unaware of another Local Authority heading down this path. The option is to Judicial Review the Government on how it has handled and introduced this totally unfair scheme onto Local Authorities.

It might seem a barking idea to take the Government to court, but it is an option. So much so, late Friday I spoke to the CEO, and other Directors if they would support this course of action. They replied they would, and it was about time we stood up and took the fight to the Government. Maybe if Cornwall Council makes this stand, other LA’s will join us, and we end up with something the Americans call a Class Action.

More tomorrow…

17 comments

  • Gill Martin

    Anything is worth a try. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

  • A benefits assessor

    Without sounding too radical, exactly what is wrong with all working age people paying 25%? I know I wish I could!

    I know you are protecting those on benefits but they manage to pay 100% of their fags, booze, sky, tatooes, holidays, flat screen tv’s, etc etc.

    Cynical maybe but first hand knowledge, trust me.

  • Andrew Wallis

    Yes I can understand that does happen, and will probably still happen. But shouldn’t be still try and protect those most at risk?

  • Gill Martin

    I used to claim council tax benefit only for being on a very low income, I am not in a position to work full time even if it was available, as I am the sole unpaid carer for an elderly parent. I did not have and still do not have “fags, booze, sky, tatooes, holidays, flat screen tvs etc etc” or broadband, and I am certainly glad I no longer claim if that is the generalisation and attitude that benefits assessors have of everyone who claims. So I wasn’t paranoid then after all, when I rang up once and felt like I was made to feel like a second rate citizen.

  • A benefits assessor

    Not only did you miss the point, you seem to have a poor memory – quote ” no I do live in rented and no I do not claim state benefits and I am glad I do not live in Wadebridge”

    Pretty sure council tax benefit was a state benefit?

  • mick martyn

    Andrew if you acheive nothing else tomorrow just get the £1m fund taken off the whole scheme rather than what will be a muddled last minute schem put in place which will be anything but fair. Who exactly is going to administer this schem if it comes in anyway? as far as i can tell all of these services are stretched to the limit without having to share £1m out to heavens knows how many will apply.

  • Gill Martin

    If they are supposed to be my comments you are quoting, I may have said I am glad I do not live in Wadebridge for some relevant reason at the time, and I may have said no I do not claim state benefits because I didn’t up until the time the husband died, then I did, now I dont, and it has only ever been council tax benefit that I have ever claimed. As for the no I do live in rented, I have never stated that I live in rented because I don’t and havn’t done for years. As for me missing the point, I am not missing the point that you appear to be generalising when you say “they manage to pay”

  • karen Campbell

    Dear Cllr Andrew,
    Please do take this to judicial review. You do have to take this fight to the government – it is wholly unfair to strip out 6mil of gov funding from one of the poorest counties in England.I work p/t on minimum wage and I am liable for full council tax – but there are many many worse off than me and this has all the makings of a second Poll tax disaster. Is Cornwall Council really prepared to spend what little money it has chasing the poorest lowest waged households for small amounts of Council tax on pain of Court orders, fines and then prison? Because that is the alternative.

    This is what the Coalition wants – for local authorities to wield the cuts and to take the pain. Except not the leafy boroughs. Check out how much Dorset or Richmond or any other High value Tory County has had its budget slashed by – by hardly anything is the quick answer..
    I am sure all the cities and LAs in North East would strongly support Cornwall in a judicial review.

  • Gill Martin

    I would be interested to know how many other counties have food banks, the government needs to recognise that Cornwall Council and those on the lowest incomes cannot sustain the cuts in funding and the subsequent council tax imposition on those claiming benefits.

  • Gavin Lang

    A benefits assessor on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 20:07 said: “Pretty sure council tax benefit was a state benefit?”………Council Tax Benefit is awarded by your local authority and is not a state benefit, unlike JSA for instance, but then a benefits assessor would know that.

  • Gill Martin

    Incidentally I believe I remember the article that a benefits assessor refers to now, and at the time I may have been claiming council tax benefit I can’t remember, I was certainly not in rented accommodation though. I do remember that all I was just trying to do was make the point at the time that it was wrong of someone to categorise those living in social rented properties claiming benefits. There is in my opinion too many people that categorise by saying “they can afford” as opposed to saying some people on benefits can afford. There is of course the point that if many people stopped claiming benefits then there would no longer be the need for so many benefits assessors. Not everyone is happy to have to claim benefits.
    When donating food to the food bank in the past I have witnessed some recipients and their obvious unhappiness at having to rely on such a facility. I hope the government is prepared to invest money into remedies for stress related illnesses brought on by the situations that some people on benefits find themselves in particularly if they happen to be judged and categorised.
    I hope Cornwall Council do challenge the government and that they are successful.

  • mick martyn

    Gill and Karen your comments are really good ones but Andrew i admire the thought but do you think trying to take on the government in a JR will do anything other than take up what is already scarse time and resourse???

    What are you going to JR then for – just the changes to council tax benefit?? i know its a big number but its a drop in the ocean as part of all the other welfare cuts they are making so why just this bit in particular?

    Also i would presume this would take months or even years so in the meantime the council would have to impose the pass on 25% scheme (if it didnt how could you JR?) and seek to recover those monies from everyone affected or will everything be placed on hold by the council and appropriate action taken when the JR outcome is decided????

    As i said, fair play for wanting to make a stand but think it through first, id much rather see you fighting for at least less than 25% being passed on and take the money from non frontline services in the council.

  • Andrew Wallis

    Hi Mick,

    If no scheme is decided today, then we have the Governments default option on the 31st Jan. Which is even nastier than the option Cornwall Council is proposing.

    My JR, is not saying lets throw money at lawyers, but to look into the feasibility of mounting a challenge. We do have grounds. So we should take the opportunity to at least investigate. Or should we just be on our knees waiting for the next cut from Government?

  • worried worker

    Go for it Andrew, someone somewhere needs to stand upto to this government before there’s nothing left for them to destroy.

  • A benefits assessor

    Mr Lang

    Although administered by the L.A. CTB remains a state benefit until April. It is the end of this state benefit which has resulted in all L.A.’s having to introduce their own schemes.

    Sorry, you are mistaken.

  • Fed Up!

    Not everybody that claims benefits drinks, smokes or go away on holiday. I find this very stereotypical and judgemental. I’m sure that during training you are taught that no matter what your personal opinion is you are not to speak it. As a victim support volunteer I was!

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