The Labour leadership of Croydon’s cash-strapped council last night voted in favour of drastic cuts to the borough’s Council Tax Support Scheme which, according to their own official report, will adversely affect families with children, lone parents, carers and those on Universal Credit.
Yes: many of the same people who are losing the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit – which the Labour leadership of Croydon Council opposes – will now be hit by Council Tax bills that could increase by up to £29 per week.
The council’s cuts are estimated as affecting at least 20,000 Croydon households.
The details of the Council Tax Support cuts were first reported by Inside Croydon last week. The council, under leader Hamida Ali, had been keeping the dire truth from the public for more than a month, hiding behind the “purdah” period of the mayoral referendum.
The proposal by Ali’s council has been described by disability charity and community groups as “a dreadful move”, one which “will impact horrendously on disabled people, single mothers with children and low-paid workers”.
The detail was pushed through at last night’s cabinet meeting by councillors Callton Young (cabinet member for squandered resources and not much financial governance) and Stuart King (cabinet member for Croydon disrenewal), and is expected to save the council about £5.7million per year.
The cash saving is the principal reason, though another one offered by the floundering local authority is that “administering multiple support schemes for residents… is administratively burdensome and time-intensive for the council”. Poor things.
Council Tax Support was introduced in 2013, and was originally mostly paid for by central government. But in line with most Tory austerity, the Conservatives have been outsourcing cuts down the line to local authorities over the past decade, gradually decreasing the amount paid towards Council Tax Support, while the demand for it has continued to grow.
In the report that went to cabinet last night, the council’s new finance director, Richard Ennis – intriguingly now also described as “deputy chief executive”; when was that announced? – gave among the principles of the existing Council Tax Support scheme,
- Council Tax Support should be paid to those with minimal savings – residents who have capital of more than £8,000 cannot claim
- Council Tax Support should be property-related – Residents can only receive Council Tax Support to a maximum of band D
- Everyone should pay something
- Protecting the vulnerable – Residents who are either pensioners, or working age residents who receive Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments or Employment and Support Allowance (part work-related), residents who are in receipt of Income Support or a Single Parent with a child under five receive the same level of Council Tax Support as they did under the Council Tax Benefit Scheme
Given the wide-ranging cuts to the scheme being proposed in Croydon, including a version of the return of a form of means-testing, it appears that the final principle, “protecting the vulnerable”, is being all but abandoned.
Paula Peters, the co-founder of Bromley and Croydon Disabled People Against Cuts who led the demonstrations on the steps of the Town Hall last week, told Inside Croydon, “The proposed cuts to Council Tax Support are a dreadful move by Croydon Council.
“This will impact horrendously on disabled people, single mothers with children and low-paid workers, many of whom are already impacted by the cut to the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit.
“The cost of living is rising horrendously, and this proposed cut to Council Tax Support will have devastating consequences and plunge people impacted into deeper poverty.
“Yet again, disabled people and low-paid workers are paying for a financial crisis they didn’t cause.”
The cabinet paper passed last night included some “red lines” for the new scheme before it will go for public consultation.
- Retain 100 per cent protection for pensioners, care-leavers under-25 and disabled
- Income bands should be based on intervals of £50
- The maximum level of income per week before someone is not eligible for
CTS of £450 per week or £23,400 per year
- The maximum discount awarded for (non-protected) working-age residents
should be 80 per cent
- Introduce a Hardship Fund to support residents transition for the current CTS scheme to an income banded scheme
But by introducing these cuts, following the disastrous Labour referendum campaign against having a directly elected mayor, council leader Ali and her team have managed to score a spectacular own-goal, handing the moral high ground to the local Tories.
Last week, one of the opposition Conservatives senior councillors, Jason Cummings, said, “The failure to manage Croydon Council’s finances by Labour was a key factor in the referendum vote.
“Racking up £1.5billion of debt, an unsustainable level, was irresponsible and reckless. That it happened under a cloud of allegations of bullying and poor governance is even more shocking.
“Already the effects of the cuts that will be necessary to retrieve this situation are starting to bite and there are many more to come. To balance next year alone another £38million are being announced. This burden will fall squarely on the shoulders of Croydon’s residents, many of them the most vulnerable in our town.
“The blame for this lies with the current Labour administration.”
The cabinet will discuss the scheme further on December 6, with a full council meeting one week later when the package of £38million-worth of cuts will finally go to a vote of the full council.
Read more: Cynical, hypocritical and devious: benefit cut to hit thousands
Read more: ‘We are all victims’: time for a residents’ Council Tax strike
Read more: Further £38.4m to be sliced from next year’s council budget
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