Why Colchester’s Council Tax Support costs us too much

Colchester Council is failing low income local people through the Council Tax support system – and now it is considering ways of making them pay more.

How so?

The Council is currently running a consultation on the way it delivers Local Council Tax Support.

The only problem is that there are important questions it doesn’t ask. Questions that could save us a significant amount of money, and start to relieve pressure on our social housing stock. And help local people with low incomes.

If you fill in the questionnaire, the only substantive questions you are asked are how satisfied you’d be if all working age adults had to pay up to 35% of their Council Tax, instead of the current 20% – and to what extent you agree those unable to work should still pay 20%.

Compare this to a similar consultation being run by neighbouring Tendring Council.

Tendring residents who have very low incomes pay only 10% of their Council Tax. Tendring Council asks whether you think this should be increased and, if so, whether it should go up to 15% or 20%.

So, hang on. Let’s get this straight.

  • Lib-Dem run Colchester is consulting on whether to make low-income people pay up to 35% of their Council Tax
  • Tory run Tendring is consulting on whether to make low-income people pay up to 20% of their Council Tax

Wow. Tendring’s Council Tax charges must be stonking if they’re to pay for that. They’re already shelling out a higher proportion of claimants’ bills.

But what’s this? Tendring charges households less Council Tax than Colchester. Here are the highest and lowest figures for a Band B property in each area.

Council Band B (Highest) Band B (Lowest)
Colchester £1,207.01 (Fordham) £1,143.24 (Colchester/Layer Marney)
Tendring £1,191.65 (Alresford) £1,129.26 (Clacton)

So what is Tendring doing differently that allows it to give more support to people on low incomes, and keep Council Tax bills lower for everyone else?

The clue is in two questions asked in their consultation – two questions missing from Colchester’s.

  • In the current scheme there are residency rules that limit awarding LCTS to those residents who have resided in Tendring for at least 5 years as at the date they apply. Do you agree that the residency rules remain?
  • The current LCTS scheme has the condition that a further 25% reduction of CTS for those who have been claiming JSA for 3 years or more.  Those deemed capable of work by the Secretary of State but who haven’t worked for 3 years or more. Should we retain this LCTS scheme condition?

Currently Tendring will not give you Local Council Tax Support unless you are truly local – having lived in the area for five years or more. It’s a great way to preserve the support for local people who need help, as well as to ease pressure on demand for social housing.

It’s an essential move, given that London Boroughs regularly move people on their housing waiting list to Essex.

By refusing these people LCTS, Tendring becomes uneconomical for them to move to. Colchester on the other hand is a light touch – you’ll get your Council Tax benefit straight away, even if you’ve lived here a week.

Similarly, while Tendring is refusing to shell out for people who are capable of work – but who haven’t worked for three years or more – Colchester happily shoulders this burden on our behalf.

So, if you’re unlucky enough to be out of work, and you’re desperately looking for a job – watch out for a bill of up to 35% of your Council Tax from Colchester Borough Council.

And if you’re paying full Council Tax already, ask yourself why your contributions are funding the people London boroughs don’t want – and the people who don’t want to work. Then ask why your bill is higher than your neighbours in Tendring.

I will be writing to my local councillors, including Anne Turrell – leader of Colchester Borough Council – asking why  questions about residency and the long-term jobless have not been included in the Colchester consultation. You can write to your own councillor too – their details are here.

 

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