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Labour councillors force through disabled tax

January 6, 2016 10:55 PM
Cllr Greg Stone moved an amendment to stop increase in Council Tax for over 5000 disabled people in the City by modifying the recommendations of a report on Council Tax base and Business Rates base calculations. It would have maintain the essentials of the council tax reduction scheme in place in recent years, but heartless Labour councillors (with one exception) followed their Whip and voted it down.
Cllr Stone said :
We believe the administration has got this wrong and we are proposing a viable, costed, tried and tested alternative.
We have significant concerns about the removal of protection for the severely disabled. We have been approached by severely disabled constituents - on low fixed incomes and in many cases low quality of life - who are worried about their ability to pay this. They are stressed and anxious - I have sat and talked with quite a few.
We think it is wrong that they have been singled out to face an additional financial burden when there is quite frankly no pressing need for them to do so. We cannot countenance a policy which seems to us to wilfully target the severely disabled - amongst the most vulnerable people in our city - when there is no compulsion to do so.
We understand the administration's concern that the Government does not provide sufficient council tax reduction scheme funding to cover all needs. This is true.
But it would be untrue to argue, as the council has done, that this move is a result of Government cuts. This council has the power to set its own priorities for its reduction scheme. It proposes that protecting the severely disabled exemption should no longer be a priority - despite consultation showing most support for keeping the exemption, and a majority against reducing the disregard below 20%.
It is blatantly untrue that this proposal is the result of Government cuts. It is not true to say in the report that would be broadly cost-neutral - it is actually more expensive than the existing scheme. The council has sufficient funding in its plans to cover the cost of maintaining the current scheme with an extra £57,000 left over if it keeps the existing arrangements as set out in the amendment. Under our proposal, that £57,000 could free up extra resource for benefit rights advice or keeping the disabled children's participation officer post which is currently under threat.
I am sure that the administration will portray this as being motivated by a wish to provide a little extra support for those on very low incomes. That in itself is a laudable objective. There are a lot of people in the city for whom council tax is a big burden.
But the truth is the administration could have made more progressive choices to fund an extension of the disregard to 15%. We would be happy to consider supporting a reduction scheme which redistributed from those who can afford it more. But that isn't the case here. This will give a tiny amount of additional help to vulnerable people but it will do it by taking far greater amounts from people who are equally or more vulnerable.
LM, this is very politically revealing. It proves some important points. It proves that the administration is very cynicallytrying to make unnecessary cuts to the most vulnerable for political advantage - and it disproves the oft-repeated claim of the party opposite that it's all the fault of the evil government. Inexplicably, the administration is choosing to target the severely disabled.
The Opposition proposal is affordable, more compassionate and prevents adverse inequality impact. The administration's proposal is more expensive, less compassionate, and increases adverse inequality impact.
I imagine many of the members of council got into politics to help protect the most vulnerable. The administration likes to claim that it is protecting the most vulnerable. Tonight, that is put to the test. After tonight, the council may not be able to claim it is protecting the most vulnerable
Lord Mayor, all of us have severely disabled people living in our wards. The question before us is whether we vote to protect them or vote to target them for a hefty tax rise. The amendment protects them and maintains the existing level of support for other beneficiaries.
I ask council to do the right thing tonight and vote with the Opposition to protect severely disabled people. Vote for the amendment. Stop Labour's disabled tax!