Council tax: a ‘new poll tax’ for the poor

Aside Posted on Updated on

Council tax support abolition is unfair and continues to cause debt, hardship and grief, says a new study. So where is the promised official review?

A year ago I reported how a study of the impact of council tax benefit abolition in London demonstrated how the policy was “a chaotic way to impoverish the already poor”.

Fresh data has now arrived, and it seems not much has changed.

Council tax benefit abolition, you will recall, effectively meant that from April 2013 many residents previously deemed too poor to pay council tax began to be charged a portion of it. In the capital, that meant in 2013-14 over 300,000 low income households faced bills of up to £400 a year.

Many struggled to pay; tens of thousands went into arrears. Four in ten of these received court summons, adding hugely inflated costs to already unpayable debts.

Here are the headline findings of the 2014-15 survey of London councils by charities Child Poverty Action Group and Z2K:

The total amount of council tax charged to council tax support claimants was more than £260m. Of this £30m was uncollected.

Some 122,749 low-income Londoners were in arrears on their council tax (up from 60,000 the previous year)

Over 100,000 low-income Londoners were sent a court summons because they have fallen behind on payments

Over 71,000 council tax support claimants were charged £8.5 million in court costs

Nearly 13,000 cases were referred to bailiffs.

Some 11 councils set up hardship funds to mitigate the impact of council tax charges. Of these 10 were underspent. Collectively just over £1.5m was set aside, of which just 40% was given out.

Read more here

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