Skip to main content

Council Tax Benefit

Volume 560: debated on Monday 18 March 2013

2. What assessment he has made of the effect on working families of changes to council tax benefit to be introduced in 2013-14. (148138)

An assessment of the impact of the Government’s policy framework for localising council tax support is available on the Department’s website. Local authorities are responsible for the design of local schemes and the assessment of their impact.

In Bolton, 3,200 families will have to find up to £15 a week to cover the Government’s cut in housing benefit, and they might also be affected by the bedroom tax and tax credit and disability benefit cuts. Does the Minister agree with Lord Jenkin that for my families in Bolton West that is a “poll tax mark 2”?

Council tax doubled under the previous Labour Government and it was necessary to take action. I am pleased that the hon. Lady’s local authority has developed a scheme that protects the most vulnerable and ensures that work pays and that, as a result, it has an additional £500,000 in the transitional grant.

The Government have stated that all schemes must contain measures that incentivise local authorities to ensure that recipients either stay in work or find work. Does that not show that the reforms are based on ensuring that all those who are willing to and can work do work?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We certainly encourage all local councils, in developing their schemes, to do their utmost to protect the most vulnerable while, as he says, ensuring that work pays.

Why do Ministers keep claiming that they are freezing council tax when they are actually increasing it for 700,000 of the poorest working people in this country? Does it not say everything about the Government’s priorities that a low-paid couple with children will have to find between £96 and £304 a year, and a single working parent will have to find up to £577, while they are giving a tax cut to millionaires? Is not the truth about this Government that, despite their rhetoric, they are giving a slap in the face to hard-working people while putting out a bowl of cream for the fat cats?

May I give the hon. Lady two basic facts? First, the reduction we have made in council tax benefit represents less than half of 1% of a council’s budget. Secondly, as a result of the pressure we have put on local councils, the average reduction in council tax since we took office is now nearly 10%.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Conservative-controlled Lancashire county council on its decision not to freeze council tax but to give hard-working families a 2% cut, which will benefit all families whether or not they receive benefit?

I am more than happy to praise my hon. Friend’s local council and all those that have done their utmost in difficult times to protect working families through a real-terms reduction in council tax, which makes a huge difference to working people, and at the same time introducing schemes that will protect the most vulnerable and ensure that work pays.