Thursday, 29 March 2012

Dark days ahead for everyone in Brighton and Hove as Tories repeat Poll Tax disaster

Remember the 'Can't Pay, Won't Pay' campaign that greeted the Tories last time they tried to make the poorest in our society pay for local services?

Whatever you think about the Poll Tax, its imposition was a political disaster for the Tories. Many have argued that it was the issue that did it for Margaret Thatcher once and for all.

But it seems the Tories just can't help themselves - they're about to repeat it all over again. And we'll all pay the price.

Of course, they're doing it through the back door this time: instead of introducing a flat rate charge for everyone to fund local councils, they are just abolishing Council Tax benefit.

Instead of the current universal scheme, which means that most benefit recipients pay nothing at all towards local councils, they will be giving the money to local councils instead - and ordering them to implement their own benefit scheme.

Great, you might think - localism in action! You'd be wrong though - as the Government will only be giving councils 90% of the cash currently spent on Council Tax Benefit: leaving a shortfall of about £2m a year here in Brighton and Hove. The rules say that the council can't collect that from anyone currently not receiving Council Tax Benefit, or pensioners, or indeed anyone the council itself considers 'vulnerable'. That means it'll all fall on everyone else, basically families who just can't afford it, many of whom will never have been expected to pay any Council Tax at all.

Obviously, this will push many thousands into hardship - especially as it comes into force at about the same time as the new Universal Credit - and its impact will therefore be felt most keenly by the least well off.

But since so many of them will simply not be able to make the payments - and the few who can may decide they're just not going to - we can expect to see a return of the 'Can't Pay, Won't Pay' campaign that brought down the Poll Tax.

And that'll mean less money for Brighton and Hove City Council to spend on the services we all use every day: things like schools, maintaining roads and parks, social services and so on. And that will be bad for all of us.

The Tories really are the nasty party.

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