Sunday, 16 December 2012

West Berks & Reading Councils making poorest pay council tax

At the moment, the poorest in our society don't pay Council Tax. They get something called "Council Tax Benefit". The government has abolished that and given councils the ability to give council tax discounts to the poor instead. The government is giving an extra grant to councils to help them do that, but this is lower than the council tax benefit that would have been paid in the council's area. In West Berkshire's case it will be about 14% less.

Lib-Dems in government insisted that councils should also be able to reduce the discounts for second homes and empty homes. The extra income from these reduced discounts can largely make up for the reduction in government grant.

Councils therefore had a choice. They could either impose a proportion of council tax on poor families who do not pay it at present, or they could reduce the discounts on second homes, etc., to make up the shortfall in grant. Both Labour-controlled Reading and Conservative-controlled West Berkshire have decided to both reduce these discounts AND impose a proportion of council tax on the poor.

The proportion that the poor is not high, 8.5% in the case of West Berkshire, but will cause real difficulties for families already spending all of their limited income on rent, fuel and food. About half the 4000 families affected in West Berkshire have members in work, so it's not just the unemployed that are affected.

Alan Macro
Councillor for Theale
West Berkshire Council

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