Hike in council tax contribution 'will push vulnerable into poverty'

Waltham Forest council's decision to increase council contributions for benefits claimants has been criticised

Waltham Forest council's decision to increase council contributions for benefits claimants has been criticised

First published in News
Last updated
East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

Residents of working age receiving council tax benefit in Waltham Forest could be forced to pay a third of contribution as of next year. 

Waltham Forest council has launched a consultation questionnaire proposing two significant changes to its Local Council Tax Support Scheme as of April 2015. 

Welfare reforms by the coalition government meant local authorities received a funding cut and for the first time in April 2013, claimants no longer received 100 per cent council tax benefit.

Local authorities were given responsibility to devise their own support schemes with Waltham Forest opting for 15 per cent reduced to 8.5 per cent in its first year, compared to five per cent in Redbridge.

Some authorities such as Tower Hamlets and Westminster agreed to maintain 100 per cent reduction in council tax liability.  

Under the proposed changes, the council has notified claimants by letter of two options - to pay at least 23 per cent for one year from April 2015 which will then increase to 32 per cent. 

The second option is for claimants to pay 27 per cent of the bill from April 2015 to 2017. 

If implemented, the borough would have the second highest minimum payment in London behind Harrow.  

Christine Robinson, 51, of Carr Road in Walthamstow, has mental health problems and has not worked for several years. 

She received her letter last Monday. 

"Asking me to pay a third is ridiculous. It's outrageous and more of a Tory policy than a Labour one," she said. 

"We haven't been given a choice, there is no real consultation. They're just proposing to whack it on everyone. 

"You get the choice of spreading it over two years or cough up now. 

"How people with no money already can afford such changes, makes no sense." 

It was revealed last month that 4,490 people receiving council tax support in Waltham Forest were summoned to court for non-payment and as a result of new measures.

Ms Robinson predicts the proposed changes end up in more court summons and will push further vulnerable residents into poverty.    

Chief executive of poverty charity Y2K, Joanna Kennedy, described the council's policy as disappointing. 

She said: "We are disappointed that Waltham Forest is considering increasing this tax on their poorest residents. 

"People in Waltham Forest are already struggling to pay the existing charge and over four thousand have received court summons. 

"Most of those have also had to pay spurious “legal costs” as well – doubling their bills and forcing them to cut back on eating and heating, yet the council makes no mention of this in their consultation.

"It seems they are simply ignoring the severe problems caused by the existing scheme. 

"If they press ahead with the proposed changes Waltham Forest will have the second highest minimum payment in London and ultimately all this will achieve is pushing low income residents further into debt and poverty. 

"We call on the council not only to refrain from increasing their charge but to scrap it all together."

A council spokeman said: “The funding the council receives from government to cover the cost of the Local Council Tax Support Scheme is decreasing.

"Between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2017, the council needs to reduce the cost of the scheme by nearly £4,450,000.

"The council can achieve this saving by reducing the amount of Council Tax Support available and requiring all working age residents eligible to receive Council Tax Support to pay a larger minimum amount of their Council Tax.

"This is not a change welcomed by Waltham Forest council. We recognise that these are
challenging times and the reduction in support will impact on some of our most vulnerable
residents.

"However, unfortunately changes are needed to achieve the required savings.”

Comments (3)

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3:21pm Fri 22 Aug 14

Thunderbird4 says...

Makes money for the courts, solicitors and judges - and the council. The rich get richer.
Makes money for the courts, solicitors and judges - and the council. The rich get richer. Thunderbird4
  • Score: 5

10:55am Sat 23 Aug 14

Villagecranberry says...

Imagine how hard it is for people who just miss qualifying for benefits who have to pay 100% without help.
Imagine how hard it is for people who just miss qualifying for benefits who have to pay 100% without help. Villagecranberry
  • Score: 15

11:44pm Mon 25 Aug 14

faro0485 says...

I'm confused, is this council run by a particular party or are they like the Sheriff of Nottingham?
Ummer Farooq
I'm confused, is this council run by a particular party or are they like the Sheriff of Nottingham? Ummer Farooq faro0485
  • Score: 0

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