Phélim Mac Cafferty: There is no meaner way to hammer the poorest

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convenor of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convenor of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

The city council is currently consulting about reducing support it provides.

The city council is currently consulting about reducing support it provides with the cost of council tax for the poorest residents.

These residents currently get up to 85% of their council tax bills paid because they cannot afford to pay themselves.

Paying the first 15%, however, is already a struggle for these households.

The council is now proposing to increase the amount of council tax households must pay to a minimum 25% of the full bill. That should be viewed in the context of last year's raise from 8.5% to 15% that Labour and the Tories forced through.

That’s an effective trebling in two years - with the poorest households' council tax bills increasing by a huge 67% from April 2016.

What else has tripled in the last two years? Certainly not average earnings, which have gone up by just 3.2%.

There is no question that our council is under tremendous pressure from Tory government ministers who have pushed through blistering cuts to welfare while tax evasion runs amok.

The council's leadership, however, has some choice about how it keeps the budget in the black. And it can avoid this unjust attack on the poorest households, if it chooses.

The council proposals come wrapped in an impenetrable consultation document. Which begs the question: Will many of those affected respond?

There is no question the proposals will increase poverty. Despite tabloid myths, households surviving on benefits face a freeze on benefits and enormous cuts to tax credits.

The Citizens Advice Bureau lists council tax arrears as the dominant cause of debt for families. Child poverty already affects one in three children in our city and that will rise even faster.

Arguably, the proposals will be ineffective; the amount of unpaid council tax has already increased. Trying to plug a funding gap by billing people who can't pay will lead only to the council spending more on chasing (bad) debts.

If you were to design a meaner way to hammer the poorest, you would be hard pushed to find a system worse than this council tax reduction scheme.

While it is sadly what we have come to expect from a Tory government promising "opportunity" while it rains down misery for millions, what is saddest of all is that it is the Labour council leadership putting these proposals forward.

The Green councillors oppose these proposals, because we think they represent a raw deal for our poorest residents.

Take part in the consultation and let the city council know what you think of these proposals before the deadline on Tuesday (October 20).

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convenor of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

Stop the tax on the poor: 14,655 households face 67% council tax rise

Five days to save 14,655 of our poorest neighbours from a 67% tax rise

Independent View: It is not fair, not right – and must not happen

To complete the full consultation questionnaire, visit: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk

Sign the petition: "Say No to a tax attack on the poor in Brighton and Hove"