`SLANTED SALFORD COUNCIL SURVEY COULD HAVE BEEN WRITTEN BY A FROTHING DAILY MAIL HACK…'
See previous Salford Star article Salford Council Tax Benefit Cuts – click here.
The only people who are let off the latest ConDem Government attack on the low paid and unemployed are pensioners. Everyone else is going to be hit by Council Tax rises, which could see some families paying around £50 more per month on their bills.
The Government has imposed the cut, which becomes active in April next year, and handed it over to local councils to sort out the mess. Some councils are not imposing any cuts in Council Tax benefits. Salford Council, via Mayor Ian Stewart, has chosen to `consult' on the changes which he intends to implement.
The Mayor's original report on the cuts stated in no uncertain terms that "the funding cuts will have a substantial impact on working age claimants". Here's how…
1. `Support will be limited to between 85% and 90% of the amount a band A property'
Band A properties have a value of `up to £40,000'*. Anyone who's in a Band A property only gets 85-90% support. And anyone in a property in Band B or above is financially knackered.
The Council has kindly provided some cases studies to help people understand the household budget destruction - and for this cut it gives the example of Mr and Mrs S who have two kids and receive income support. At the moment they pay nothing but under the new proposals, because they live in a band D property (worth £68-£88,000), they would be stuffed with a bill of between £863 and £914 per year.
The Council's consultation `survey', we believe, is well slanted, like it could have been written by a frothing Daily Mail hack…
`Do you agree that everyone of working age should pay something towards their council tax?'… `Do you agree and think it's fair that people should pay a minimum contribution of 10 to 15% towards their council tax bill?'…`Do you agree that people who qualify for council tax support and live in higher banded homes should pay more towards their council tax bill?'
What it doesn't say is that most people now live in homes with a value above Band A, £40,000. And what it doesn't ask is `Do you think it's right that families on low incomes should be getting almost an extra £1000 Council Tax bill to pay on top of everything else?'
2. `We would remove the second adult rebate for all people of a working age'
The Council gives the example of Mr W, who doesn't currently get any support for his own bill but his son gets income support, so he gets a second adult rebate of £4.87 a week. Under new proposals his bill would mushroom by an extra £253 a year.
3. `Benefits will not be paid where the weekly support is less than £1.00.'
An extra £52 bill per year for people already struggling under `austerity'.
Salford Council has another proposal too. Its consultation states there will be "a new fund to support people who experience extreme hardship. We intend to set out new rules for who might qualify and how they could apply for help with their council tax."
This is very nice, but the consultation doesn't set out what the "new rules" actually are. How can Salford people comment on the `discretionary fund' when they don't know how you would qualify for it?
As the Salford Star pointed out in the previous article (click here), central government is giving Salford Council a payment to cover Council Tax benefits, with a 10% cut. But the government payment isn't ring fenced to support people who can't afford to pay Council Tax.
In theory Salford Council could make it really difficult for its lowest paid and poorest citizens to claim benefits – and put the money towards fountains, Salford Reds, Media City or whatever else it fancied. We're sure the Mayor wouldn't do this but the temptation would definitely be there…
The Council has calculated that the Council Tax benefit cut is essential because there would be a shortfall of around £3million – and argues that if it didn't cut Council Tax benefits other services would have to be cut.
The Salford Star rejects this argument. Salford Council is paying out £3million a year to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Salford Council has a MediaCityUK slush fund of around £2million a year for the next five years. Salford Council has recently stumped up £3million for a car park near Granada Studios. Salford Council has this week approved a grant of £4million plus loans of £11million to Peel Holdings, one of the richest companies in the country. And Salford Council will shortly be having a grand opening of its new £13million fountain and sculpture space in Greengate.
The Council might argue that it has contracts in place with these prestige schemes that can't be broken. But what about the social contract with its own population, who are getting absolutely hammered by the ConDem cuts – and the ruling Labour Party's compliance with those cuts?
We urge everyone to take part in the consultation and tell Salford Council where to stuff its Tory cuts.
Full details of Council Tax cuts and the online consultation – click here
* We've been informed that Band A value of £40,000 dates back to 1991 and still stands.