Debate Magazine

That's No Way to Collect Council Tax

Posted on the 11 October 2013 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth
From the BBCHundreds of thousands of people have been taken to court in England for non-payment of council tax owing to benefit changes, according to the Labour Party...  Before April of this year, millions of people on low income in England paid no council tax at all, or had their bill substantially reduced. The council tax benefit system was then replaced.  The government said this was part of a wider package of changes designed to control the spiralling cost of welfare (1) - and encourage councils to find ways of helping those on benefits into work.  It reduced the overall level of funding by 10% and said each council should decide how much support to offer residents - although pensioners were protected from any cut.(2)  1) That's simply not true. The amount spent on/rebated for working age and child welfare has been very stable at around ten per cent of government spending since the dawn of mass unemployment/Home-Owner-Ism in the 1970s.  The Tories love saying that it's a third of all government spending - but that includes the one-fifth spent on old age pensions (a cost which could be more accurately described as "spiralling" although "drifting steadily upwards" would be more apposite).  2) Inevitably. The main point is this though, the government gives with one hand (welfare, pensions) and takes with the other (in this instance, Council Tax). Whatever the rights and wrongs of all this, why not just withhold Council Tax at source i.e. deduct it from welfare and pensions payments? That would save a fortune in admin costs and hassle.  The same applies to rents for social housing or whatever nominal contribution a low income or claimant tenant renting from a "private" landlord is expected to make. That would at least throw into stark focus how much (or how little) money welfare claimants get to actually live in.  We observe the same madness with the TV license fee Southwark Council has issued a mass court summons to 5,800 residents failing to pay council tax, sparking fears that rent arrears could increase in the borough as a result.  The council asked around 19,000 people who previously paid nothing to start contributing £12 per month after the government scrapped council tax benefit in April. Why not just deduct £3 a week from their welfare or pension payments and leave them in peace?

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