Thursday, 20 September 2012

Council Tax Benefit Challenge

Last night I put the following question to the Council meeting of Maidstone Borough Council: "Noting the 10% reduction in central government grant for Council Tax Benefit, to what extent could the shortfall in funding be reduced if council tax was raised in 13/14"

The answer that I received ranged from - and I paraphrase: 'they are doing everything they can' (Tories) to 'we will be watching the problem closely' (Lib Dem) to 'someone has to pay to close the national deficit' (Cllr Gooche, Ind). Poor answers from the Tories and Tory Lites, and a sickening answer from from Cllr Gooch.

Cllr Garland (leader and Tory) claimed that council tax would need to rise by 8.3% to close the gap and with no imagination he is correct, however...

The gap in funding is around £1.1m. The council are going to propose a 2.5% increase in council tax which leads them to their 13% reduction in benefits after they have removed concession on empty and second homes (well done). Taking council tax to 3.5% would provide a further £150k that could help, either through reducing the overall shortfall or through an emergency support fund for families.

13% of children in Maidstone are in families on benefits, despite Maidstone being one of the most affluent places in the country and having the highest employment rate a few months back. 13% is the average and rises to 38% in one ward.

A further 1% rise would cost people in Band B just £11 per year, 20p per week or 3p a day. Surely it is right that those who can afford to pay council tax support those who can't?

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