What next for Council Tax?

More details of council tax reduction scheme to come…

Anti-poverty campaigner, Paul Nicholson

By Russell Hargrave

An anti-poverty campaigner has welcomed Haringey Council’s plans to reform council tax benefit.

Rev Paul Nicholson, who has lived in Tottenham for almost thirty years and founded the group Taxpayers Against Poverty in 2012, said that he is “delighted” about the proposals. The council tax reduction scheme was proposed by Haringey’s Labour leadership last August, and a public consultation attracted nearly three hundred and fifty responses from local people and groups, according to a council spokesperson.

Officials estimate that the council tax reduction scheme could reduce bills for six thousand people in the borough.

“I think it is wonderful, I think it is exactly what should happen,” Nicholson told Tottenham Community Press. He described council tax as “the most regressive tax you could possibly invent” and added:

“People who are on unemployment benefits, which have been frozen since 2015, are going to food banks. Why are they going to foodbanks? Because they are being taken to the bailiffs and the courts by the council because they can’t pay their council tax.” Nicholson also argued that high rates of council tax for poor residents have contributed to growing poverty locally, at a time when some parts of Haringey are already among the 5% most deprived areas in the UK.

It will cost Haringey Council £1.6 million a year to implement the council tax scheme.

Under the current timetable, decisions about future spending, including how to pay for the council tax reforms, won’t be made until next month.

The process has been criticised by Liz Morris, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group at the local authority, who pointed out that the council hasn’t explained where it would find the money needed to pay for the reforms.

“We also welcome help for those who may have difficulty paying their council tax,” Cllr Morris said, “but really we are not that happy with the consultation. People were not presented with [an explanation of ] this is what we’re going to do; this is what it’s going to cost; and by the way this is what will have to be cut to be able to finance it.”

“You wouldn’t want a council tax reduction scheme which helps families with children, and then children’s services are cut to pay for it. But we have no idea where the money is coming from. We just don’t know,” said Cllr Morris.
Cllr Morris pointed out that the council budget deficit was already rising sharply.

A spokeswoman at the council has confirmed that there are provisional plans to publish more details about the council tax reduction scheme on Thursday 31st January, to coincide with a full council meeting.