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Council Tax: Con-Dems turn screw on poorest
A benefits advisor
For the first time this April, hundreds of thousands of the poorest in society received a shock with their post - for the first time, they will have received a bill for their council tax.
Under the new council tax rules, Council Tax Benefit has been abolished and replaced with Council Tax Support.
With this, each local authority will have its own scheme - the total available budget, though, has been reduced by a massive £480 million, or 10% of the previous total.
What this means is that, for many thousands of claimants, they will have to pay council tax for the first time.
If you are on very low wages, or on benefits, you will now have to claim from the local council.
The rules for this are much the same - except that each council has to decide how much of the cut they are going to pass on to Council Tax Support claimants.
Some councils have deferred it, some aren't making any charge. Others, like my own council in Liverpool, have decided that the poorest in society must pay 8.5% of their council tax bill; in neighbouring Knowsley, it is 20%.
Of the 43,500 working age claimants in Liverpool, 37,000 will have to pay for the first time, with the others having to make higher payments. For those on full benefit, this means at least £1.70 a week, £88 a year.
This can mean crossing the borderline between survival and starving for many. Already, the agency I work for runs out of food vouchers as soon as we can get them in; we are now having to refer people to a soup kitchen run by a local church.
The benefits people get are worked out as the minimum needed for survival. How on earth can this already meagre sum be reduced even more in a "contribution" towards Council Tax Support?
People are coming into my agency terrified of the future, of how they are going to manage on reduced housing benefit after the "bedroom tax", of how they are going to find the extra £6-£7 a month for the Council Tax Support reduction.
That mood of despair could be turned into a fighting spirit of hope even if only one council were to stand up to the Con-Dem government and refuse to pass their cuts onto ordinary people and instead launch a fighting campaign against cuts and austerity.
Heroically, a handful of councillors have stood up to be counted; in Liverpool, not one councillor has had the guts to support the people they were elected to defend.
With no council elections in Liverpool this year, they think they have a breathing space before they can be brought to account.
We need to build a movement that, this year and next, can show the real feelings of ordinary working people towards this government and those in the Labour Party who have deserted the fight.
Harlow benefit rebels
Harlow Council is demanding that a terminally-ill jobless woman pays council tax, according to a local protest group.
Harlow Council Tax Benefit Rebels came across the case in the course of its campaign for the restoration of 100% council tax relief for jobless householders.
Spokesperson Wat Tyler said: "Harlow council demonstrates utter callousness in demanding council tax from someone unable to work as a result of a terminal illness."
"It is disgusting. Mike Danvers, the councillor responsible for implementing this policy, was himself taken to court 20-odd years ago for refusing to pay the Poll Tax on the grounds that he thought it was unfair."
"We refuse to succumb to the council's bullying. Jobless householders can persuade Harlow council to back down if we ignore its threats and continue our refusal to pay.
Harlow council privately admits that it is not worth taking people to court for small amounts, and has budgeted for an expected mass default. We continue to say: Can't Pay? Don't Pay!"
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Plymouth city council has voted 34 votes to 20 to write to the government asking it to scrap the bedroom tax.
Forcing the Labour council to vocalise objection is a good first step but this is only the beginning of the struggle in Plymouth.
The campaign group Plymouth Against Benefit Cuts, which has been set up mainly by Socialist Party activists, will be reaching out into the communities affected by the bedroom tax.
Plymouth city council needs to be pushed to act against the bedroom tax, not just posture for the sake of winning favour for future election campaigns.
The bedroom tax is not the only cut people are being hit with. Cuts to council tax benefits will affect even more people.
This is something that was barely discussed in the full council meeting on 22 April, except for the council to state that it is willing to use bailiffs to evict those who accrue debts from non-payment of council tax.
This is outrageous and we must campaign for the council to pledge not to evict tenants affected by welfare cuts.
We need to demand that the council really stands up for the people of Plymouth and pledges not to implement any of these cuts.
If they refuse, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will stand anti-cuts candidates against them.
Ryan Aldred, Plymouth Socialist Party
Over 50 people attended a lively launch of Salford's newest anti-bedroom tax campaign, on the Ordsall estate on 25 April.
George Tapp of Salford Pensioners' Association convened the meeting, backed by the Unite union.
Hugh Caffrey from the Socialist Party outlined this vicious attack by the bankers' government on the poorest people, which Labour opposes in words but implements in practice.
Steve North brought solidarity from the local trades council and Salford Unison, representing over 5,000 workers in Salford. Steve reported that the trades council has adopted a position of 'no evictions'.
Tony Moore, Jarrow marcher for Youth Fight for Jobs, said young people face a future of living at home with their parents as the bedroom tax makes it unaffordable to move.
Salford's May Day march will be the next demonstration for the Ordsall campaign on Saturday 4 May - 10am at Bexley Square, off Chapel Street, Salford.
A further meeting will take place in a fortnight and a demonstration will be held outside the Salix Homes office in Ordsall.
Salford Socialist Party reporters
Socialist Party anti-bedroom tax posters and leaflets are available to assist party branches build for public meetings. Orders to 020 8988 8777
In The Socialist 1 May 2013:
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