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.