Many of my constituents across Reddish are currently unaware of some important changes that will mean a substantial number of people here in Stockport, and across the country – including many who are on low incomes – will face a rise in council tax from April 2013, at a time when top earners will get a tax cut.
All this is because Council Tax Relief, which used to be a national scheme, is being ‘localised’. So each Council will be responsible for setting out a system of reliefs to suit their community’s own needs. Now this might sound like localism in action, but the Tory-led government have been a bit more canny than that and cut the funding to each Council by a whopping 10% cut in funding – which comes on top of huge cuts by ministers to councils’ overall budgets – and leaves many local authorities with no option but to increase council taxes for some of the very poorest in society. The Government is passing the buck, but not the bucks!
This will have a huge impact here in Stockport. Not only is Stockport Council already cutting tens of millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs, but many households with no one in employment who are currently exempt from council tax will have to pay the tax for the first time – typically between £96 and £255 a year.
All over the country, people on very low incomes will also be asked to pay sums of money they simply cannot afford, just like the hated Poll Tax. In fact, the former Tory Minister, Lord Jenkin, who came up with the original Poll Tax back in 1988, has called this scheme ‘Poll Tax Mark II’.
This Tory-led Government has lectured councillors that they have a ‘moral duty’ not to increase council tax bills this year, but they are planning a council tax bombshell of their very own by increasing the bills paid by people on the lowest incomes. And these are the very same households who are also seeing their tax credits cut, and who will be impacted by changes to housing benefit and the introduction of a ‘bedroom tax’.
Worse, George Osborne is balancing the books for his millionaire’s tax cut – worth £2,000 a week – on the backs of the poorest. It shows quite clearly whose side the Tory-led Government is on, and it isn’t Stockport’s!
Of course we all want to bring down the welfare bill, but the simplest way we do that is by creating jobs. The best way to cut the welfare bill is to get the economy growing. But it’s not growing, it’s teetering on the edge of an unprecedented triple-dip recession. And it our community here in Stockport that is continuing to pay a high price for this abject economic failure.
This article has been written for the MP’s column in the Stockport Express and Stockport Times newspaper.