Cuts in Council Tax Benefit bring hardship for Poor in Surrey from April

 

The prestigious Institute of Fiscal Studies say that cuts in council tax benefit are certain to affect the poorest families. Thousands of Surrey families on low incomes or receiving Job Seekers Allowance depend on this benefit to meet the cost of their council tax. 85% of the benefit goes to 5.9million mainly lower income families.

The Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government decision to abolish the benefit paid throughout the country to people on low incomes. They are cutting the money previously made available to councils by ten per cent and leaving it up to individual councils whether they pay it at all or redefine who will be the recipient.

Surrey is likely to suffer disproportionately because so many households paying council tax here are paying it at a higher rate because so many houses are in a higher band for council tax. Many families who struggle after losing a job and receive job seekers allowance can usually expect the benefit to cover the council tax for their homes.

There is a commitment to protect pensioners but the consequence of this stipulation is a cut of 19 % available to support working age claimants. Further Surrey’s above average number of pensioners requiring protection from the cut may mean a reduction in the money available to help with council tax being greater than this. From next April the Institute for Fiscal Studies are predicting that like the poll tax councils will be faced with chasing people through the courts to secure payment of council tax. Council tax debt is a priority debt and bailiffs will be quickly in action.

The Government believe that cutting council tax benefit will somehow encourage people to seek employment. It is hard to see the connection and the collapse of work programme makes this even more unlikely. As far as localism in Surrey is concerned the many councillors are being expected to reinvent a scheme to help the many people here trying to make ends meet with drastically limited money available to achieve the objective. There is a danger that in their desperation these people will question the provision of services the tax pays for and they are so dependent upon.     

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