Thursday, 31 January 2013

Council Tax Benefit changes and Camden

Channel 4 News carried a piece about Council Tax Benefit Thursday evening.

Here's the position in Camden:  due to a reduction in funding from the Government councils will have 10% less money to support households with, which is approximately £2.7m in Camden for 2013/14.

This would mean that households previously judged too poor to pay Council Tax by the Government would be liable for upto 15% of the bill - £153 a year.

Camden council has taken steps to ensure that new Council Tax charges for the poorest families are offset for this year.

The Council Tax Reduction Scheme helps those people on no or low income to pay their Council Tax and replaces Council Tax Benefit which was established in 1992 by Government to ensure that the poorest households in the country did not have to pay full Council Tax.

The changes only affect working age claimants. Their entitlement to benefit will be calculated in the same way as previously but the maximum amount of financial support is lowered from 100% to 91.5%.  The amount could have been higher, but after consultation Camden has decided to participate in the Transition scheme to ensure that liability for many households who have never paid Council Tax before is limited to 8.5%, which is between £1.10 and £3.31 for claimants.

The cost of doing this is £460,000 for this year.

There are currently 25,900 households getting Council Tax Benefit in Camden.  The 16,800 working age claimants will potentially be affected by the changes and will have to pay something towards their Council Tax Bill.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Camden freezes Council Tax for 2 more years

Camden Labour will publish its draft 2013 Budget shortly, outlining spending priorities for this year and setting out planned Council Tax levels.

Following discussion at Labour Group on Monday night, Camden will freeze council tax for households 2013 and 2014 – meaning that Band D will remain £1022.
Due to one of the largest efficiency and costs drives undertaken in the borough, Camden Labour will have frozen Council Tax for households from 2010-2014: its entire administration.

The freeze will be announced alongside measures to:

- Increase Council tax on homes empty for more than 2 years to 150%
- End the 10% tax discount for second homes
- Spend £400,000 limiting the impact of Government cuts to Council Tax support for the lowest-earning households

The draft Budget will also set out measures to boost local jobs and growth and mitigate against the impacts of welfare changes for the least well off.

Final tax decisions will be made on 4th March after a public scrutiny process.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Ham&High editor: large families in council housing should've "died out" with "the invention of the Pill"

Not for the first time, the Editor of the Ham&High has caused controversy with his right-wing views. 

This week's Ham&High contains an editorial broadly attacking Camden Labour's (well, my) record on value for money.  

Fair comment perhaps (although point-by-point wrong).

But what stands out, though, is his language about "large families" - people in over-crowded housing wanting to move into a bigger flat.  Camden, like many other councils, introduced an incentive scheme in October to encourage people to downsize.  

The policy is not the first of its kind: it was piloted first in Tory Westminster some time ago and is operated in most, if not all, local authorities and housing associations. 

Westminster offer up to £30,000 for council tenants to move and started the scheme nearly 4 years ago - Camden is actually late here, not a groundbreaker.

That doesn't matter for Geoff:
"with all the emphasis on saving money, I wonder what role he [me, Cabinet member for Finance] played in dreaming up the idea that council tenants should be offered thousands of pounts (upto £25,000 in fact) to move out of properties which have become too big for them.  This is an attempt to find more suitable accommodation for nearly 800 families who need a home with five or more bedrooms (I thought that kind of social housing problem had died out with the invention of the pill)."

Before you say:  "Imagine that - a Labour council helping skivers, just popping out kids, wanting flats...someone needs to do something about that...!" let's not let the facts get in the way:

- More than 5,000 households in Camden are living in overcrowded conditions and 798 are waiting for a home with five bedrooms or more.

- Last year, just one five-bedroom home became available for letting in the borough.

- Overcrowding is the cause of poor educational attainment, poor health and family breakdown.

- By easing overcrowding the taxpayer saves substantial amounts of money on bills for temporary accommodation in the private rented sector. 

See the Full e-edition Editorial here (you don't have to 'sign  up').

Presumably for some Geoff is a "freethinker", others will say it's ugly attack on on families - and children - who don't deserve his prejudiced views.