Andrew has spoken out in Parliament against the plans by the Tory and Liberal Democrat Coalition government to change the system of council tax benefits, which will cost local councils millions of pounds and mean many low paid people currently exempt from the charge will now be hit with a bill.
Instead of having one nation-wide scheme, the government’s plans will mean that from next April, each local council will have to draw up their own council tax benefit scheme. However, the government have also cut the money it currently spends on the national scheme by 10%, leaving already cash-strapped councils short of enough funds to continue with the same entitlements.
Because all pensioners will be protected from the changes, it means that working families who were receiving council tax relief will face cuts in that benefit of between 16%-25%.
Andrew announced to parliament the levels of shortfall that Tameside and Stockport Councils will expect to see. The money Tameside can expect to receive from the government means the scheme could be underfunded by a massive £3.575 million, while Stockport will face a shortfall of £2.4 million on any new council tax support scheme.
Andrew also slammed the government’s one off transition payment, which was intended to help bridge the gap as being “an insulting pittance”. Research from the House of Commons Library shows that Tameside could qualify for a grant of £460,379, while Stockport could qualify for £ 385,550 but these transitional arrangements are for one year only.
Andrew Gwynne MP said:
“The localisation of the council tax benefit scheme is going to make the system increasingly more complex, with each different council adopting altogether different entitlements, according to the finances of that local authority. In many ways this is like a return to the Poor Law.”
“These changes are likely to hit some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in my constituency, in particular the working poor, as council tax benefit isn’t just an ‘out of work’ benefit.”
“What is more galling is that the people affected by these changes are likely to be the same people who are also caught up with changes to housing benefit, and potentially with under-occupancy rules, and who have seen their tax credits reduced. That is the real unfairness of this—it is hitting the same communities time and again”