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Council Tax Support

Volume 550: debated on Monday 17 September 2012

4. What assessment he has made of the effect on people in employment of plans by local councils to implement the localisation of council tax support. (120886)

An impact assessment is on my Department’s website. These welfare reforms will create stronger incentives for councils to get people back into work and to play a part in clearing the budget deficit.

Will the Government give an assessment of how many more working people they expect to borrow from legal loan sharks as a result of these changes?

None; every local authority is responsible for delivering growth in its area. With this plan, we have given local authorities the tools and the power to be part of driving economic growth, getting more people into work and ensuring that work pays.

I welcome my hon. Friend to his new position. Will he clarify in further detail the guidance to councils that have high numbers of pensioners in their communities?

I thank my hon. Friend. He is right to highlight the issue of pensioners. We are protecting all their current rights.

I welcome the Minister to his new post. As councils begin to consult on their schemes, it is clear that poor working families will have to pay between 15% and 30% of council tax, when previously they paid nothing, leaving many with a choice between paying the bill and buying food. Is that what he meant when he said on his blog:

“This government is rewarding those who work”?

Does it not say all we need to know about this Government that they are introducing a tax rise for the poorest working people on the same day that they are introducing a tax cut for millionaires?

The hon. Lady seems to be making a spending commitment of about half a billion pounds. I am not sure whether that has been approved by the shadow Chancellor. We are ensuring that local authorities have real choices over how they manage the reduction. They can look at a range of areas, including providing more efficient services to the front line. We are looking to ensure that local authorities play their part in economic growth and in getting more people into work in their communities.

If the Minister will not listen to us, perhaps he will listen to his own Tory councillors. Surrey councillors say that the scheme penalises claimants who go out to work. The Secretary of State’s county council says that it has major implications for some of the most vulnerable members of the community; the Foreign Secretary’s council says that the scheme is unfair; and the Prime Minister’s council thinks it is so bad that it is refusing to implement it at all. Is that not because they know that this is Pickles’s poll tax and it is heading for disaster?

The simple fact is that the scheme is giving local authorities the power to have local decision making over their budgets. Through the consultation, we will see a range of different options, which we will receive towards the end of this month. The scheme is making local councils part of their economic growth programmes, so that we see more people into work and ensure that it always pays to work.