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Cornwall Council 'using poor tax to pay for fund cuts'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 30, 2013

Alex Folkes: 'This will mean an average bill for the poorest of £265 a year'

Comments (11)

Councillors in Cornwall have accused leaders of hitting the least well-off with a "poor tax" to plug the gap left by government funding cuts.

Yesterday at a meeting at County Hall, Truro councillors approved recommendations that everyone of working age should pay at least 25% of their full council tax after discounts.

From April 1 the Government's national council tax benefit scheme ends, leaving local councils to set-up their own systems.

Cornwall Council members also agreed to set up a £1 million "safety net" to help the poorest pay the levy – they also voted through an extra £150,000 for the Citizen's Advice Bureau to help those affected by the changes. It will cost the council £4.2 million to run the local scheme.

Alex Folkes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, said he was disappointed with the result.

Mr Folkes had argued money to fund the scheme could have been taken from other areas. His amendment to reduce the £13 million spent on consultants and agency staff drafted-in to work at the council to between £8-9 million was defeated.

He said: "I'm disappointed our efforts to save 26,000 of the least well-off in Cornwall from having to pay a 'poor tax' has failed.

"It will mean an average bill for the poorest of £265 a year.

"We understand cuts have to be made and it's going to be tough.

"But trying to get money out of the poorest people in the community never works.

"It will just lead to them getting into more debt."

Jude Robinson, Labour, said: "Local councillors should have thought more about people in the wards they represent.

"Ill health and low wages are higher in this area than anywhere else in Cornwall.

"People are desperate and the local food bank is already stretched.

"Cuts to housing benefits and working tax credits by the coalition government have hit people hard."

Jim Currie, council leader, said: "We are facing a very difficult decision and need to act now to avoid leaving the new council with an unmanageable black hole. Using council tax payers' money to maintain the current level of council tax support would mean Cornwall Council was subsidising the national welfare system.

"With further cuts expected in our funding from the Government in the coming years and increasing demand on our services, we would have no choice but to cut frontline services."

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  • astrowitchee  |  January 31 2013, 1:36PM

    Why don't councils double the council tax for second homes?

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  • CAB_Cornwall  |  January 31 2013, 6:11AM

    I live alone, essentially housebound, my only income is from ESA and DLA. And as from yesterday's news I am now waiting to hear the details about having to find anything between £300 to £800 a year out that for Council Tax. (Nearer the latter sum if the permitted savings limit has been drastically reduced: thrift will have cost me.) It's not improving my health. And that's before ATOS comes round again. I had to appeal to tribunal last time, but got my ESA back. I'm not sure I've the strength and stamina to do that again. Feeling more trodden-on than supported, just at the moment. Keep Calm and Carry On.

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  • Doitdreckley  |  January 30 2013, 8:53PM

    Its not 'all Labour's fault'. This is a simplistic myth hawked about by the right wing press and bloggers with no analysis. The economic crisis of 2008 had been building since the deregulation of markets on both sides of the Atlantic in the 80s. Daft lending policies by banks led to economic collapse. Labour failed to regulate and we all know that Blair emulated Thatcher. Gordon Brown restored economic growth and made sure that the banks were saved so there was cash in the machines that we all use. A susbtantial amount of the deficit and public sector workers actually work for banks! Councillors who voted to increase their allownaces were wrong but they need to be paid so that we are not just represented by the rich retired who clearly demonstrate that they are cluless about the challenges that ordinary working people face on a day to day basis. Cuts would hit the vulnerable as well. All people who pay council tax (even £200 a year) have a right of service and representation. This wretched Government should allow local councils to set the level of council tax that they need to deliver services and if local people dont like it then they should be able to petition to remove their council or councillors. Otherwise, if cuts are in order lets hit things like roads, schools and rubbish. Rather than shift the burden to those who cannot afford it then we all need to see the consequences of cuts. Nationally and locally they have not hit yet. Whe they do we will all more clearly see the consequences.

    |   6
  • JAPSTO  |  January 30 2013, 4:07PM

    @ green finger studios you are right my response was political but only in light of the comments made by other polititians in the article. I tend to agree bailiffs are used at an earlier stage than was mentioned and I for one feel some unease about this.

    |   3
  • JAPSTO  |  January 30 2013, 3:46PM

    Pregnancy, illness etc in services that are important to all residents.

    |   -2
  • Green Ginger Studios  |  January 30 2013, 3:13PM

    @Japsto. Your response is disappointingly party political. Had you really thought about the people you represent you would not have responded along those lines, recognising that very few of us (at least out here on planet Earth) affiliate ourselves with party thinking. "It's all Labour's fault" is the national party line, regurgitated ad nauseum at PMQs and in every defensive press release and, heck, it might even be true. But this doesn't alter the fact that the Council yesterday voted to hit poor people. However, I do agree with you on the matter of allowances. I fall into that category of hard working etc and not receiving any assistance. And I've just been threatened by this lovely Council with bailiffs. I'm only £45 or so behind schedule. Please explain how yesterdays meeting could allow plainly crass assurances from the likes of Jim Currie that bailiffs are only used as a "last resort" to waft across the chamber unchallenged. It makes me wonder if the Councillors who sat in that chamber yesterday and listened to this obvious dross from the leadership realise quite what they are unleashing on people.

    |   8
  • josdave  |  January 30 2013, 2:12PM

    £13million on consultancy and agency staff. Can't their own staff do these jobs and if not why not as agency staff are more expensive.

    |   9
  • Newquay_Loyal  |  January 30 2013, 2:10PM

    It matters not at which point someone become a Politician, local Parish, Town or County Council, MP, MEP, the one thing they all forget is... they have been voted by the public of the constituency they represent to SERVE them, not the party they are aligned to. Party politics detracts from what should be a wonderful system, where the elected member, asks the voters what they think, then acts upon it. It should not be what they are instructed to do by the paymasters at Party HQ. If everyone voted for an Independent, we may actually get what we need, a fair minded group of people who wish to SERVE their communities.

    |   7
  • JAPSTO  |  January 30 2013, 1:52PM

    I did think about the people I represent, all the people I represent including hard working people/families who struggle to make ends meet and are not entitled to council tax relief. Maybe the labour councillor should have thought of the people she represents when she voted for a £2,500 increase in councillors allowances at a time council staff salaries have been frozen. The country was left with no money after13 years of labour rule yet their polititians are still in denial and unwilling to make any difficult decisions. It is known as oportunism.

    |   -9
  • Green Ginger Studios  |  January 30 2013, 11:02AM

    By the way, did anyone else notice that Jim Currie, in his speech during yesterdays meeting, said he had been assured by officers that bailiffs were used as "the last resort"? So who's lying? Currie or the officers? Someone is because CC is very keen on bailiffs and often seems to use them at the earliest opportunity rather than last resort.

    |   13