Millions of people around the country are facing rises in their council tax from April 2013 on the orders of Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Manchester City Council announced on Friday a consultation on plans to charge all residents barring pensioners at least 15 per cent of their council tax burden. Conservative Barnet Council, launching their consultation on the same day, could charge even more – up to 25 per cent for all working age people. Even Eric Pickles’ local Essex County Council warned on Wednesday that “the changes to the council tax benefit system could have major implications for some of the most vulnerable members in our community,” as they announced the start of a series of consultations on similar increases.
In the past the unemployed, disabled, full-time carers and people on low incomes would not have had to pay their full council tax.
After the Poll Tax, where there were widespread and serious problems in collecting the 20 per cent contribution from the registered unemployed, a council tax rebate system was introduced in 1992 to cover the full council tax payments for those unable to pay.
However, the Tory-led Government is cutting funding for the rebate system by 10 per cent and forcing local authorities to take over the burden of imposing and communicating the cuts by designing their own rebate systems.
Hilary Benn MP, Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:
“Eric Pickles has lectured councillors that they have a moral duty not to increase council tax bills but in fact he has been planning a £450 million council tax bombshell of his own by increasing the bills paid by people on low incomes.
“Local authorities face a terrible dilemma. Do they increase council taxes on the working poor – over 760,000 people nationally work but have lower council tax because their income is low - or the disabled or families with young children?
“Just as happened with the poll tax, councils will be forced to chase people on low incomes for money they simply don't have.
“The Budget killed off David Cameron's claim that we are all in this together, but to see tax cuts for millionaires and tax increases for those on low incomes planned to come in on the very same day next April tells us everything we need to know about whose side the coalition is on.”