Council tax changes ‘would hit the poorest’

council tax changes

council tax changesThe government's proposed changes to the council tax system mean that poor families will have to choose between paying their bills or buying food, a Labour MP has claimed.

Shadow communities and local government minister Helen Jones said the plan put forward by communities and local government secretary of state Eric Pickles means that poor working families who currently do not have to pay council tax will have to start paying between 15% and 30% of the tax.

During Commons questions, Mrs Jones compared the scheme to the notorious poll tax that was introduced in the 1980s, adding: "Doesn't it say all we need to know about this government, that it's introducing a tax rise for the poorest working people on the same day it introduces a tax cut for millionaires?"

Council efficiency

However, the coalition's new communities and local government minister Brandon Lewis defended the council tax proposals and said Mrs Jones' position amounted to an unofficial commitment to spend around £500 million - a spending plan that hasn't been approved by Labour's finance chiefs.

"In reality what we're doing is making sure local authorities have real choices about how they manage the reduction," he continued.

"They can look at a whole range of areas, including providing more efficient services to the frontline. But what we are looking to do is make sure they play their part in being part of economic growth, seeing more people into work in their communities," Mr Lewis added.

'Penalising the vulnerable'

But Labour's Mrs Jones hit back at the claims and said that even some Conservative controlled local councils are against the changes.

"If the minister won't listen to us, will he perhaps listen to his own Tory councillors? The Surrey councillors say that... this scheme is penalising claimants who go out to work, the Secretary of State's own county council says it has major implications for some of the most vulnerable members of the community," she said.

Mrs Jones also claimed that the councils in the foreign secretary's and prime minister's constituencies are opposed to its introduction.

"Isn't that because they know that this is Pickles' poll tax and it's heading for disaster?" she added.

But Mr Lewis stood firm in arguing that the scheme will be effective because it sends a clear message that hard-working families are rewarded for being in employment, while also giving councils more control over their own budgets.