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Monday, 6 August 2012

Council tax benefit cuts, attacking the most vunrable again, all cuts must be fought

Another vicious attack on the most vulnerable has been launched by the Con-Dem government by slashing the amount of council tax benefit people receive. In fact, they want to completely abolish the benefit at a national level in April 2013. Instead, local authorities will be given the responsibility of dishing out the money but with 10% less in the pot. Bob Neill, Tory Local Government minister, speaking on Radio 4 defended it as "an incentive for councils to get people back to work". But where are the jobs many ask? The only proviso that has been set by the government is that councils should pay the full amount to pensioners and 'protect the vulnerable'. As for who is defined as 'vulnerable', that's for the council to decide. There are currently almost six million people who receive council tax benefit. Of these, 62% are under 65 and many have 100% of their council tax paid for them. These changes will mean that people, already living in poverty in many cases, will be asked to cough up something towards it. Every council in England is being asked to consult on the cuts they are making (Scotland has decided to make the 10% cuts elsewhere and Wales is passing the 10% cuts on to benefit recipients). But residents are only being given the choice of deciding who should be forced to pay more. If completing the questionnaire for Harrow Council, you can choose who should get more benefit: those who 'can't work' or those 'who can work but are unemployed'. There is no option for the council to fight this cut from the government. Manchester City Council is looking at cutting the benefit by 15-20% for everybody while others are looking at reducing the savings you can have while still being entitled to the benefit - Waltham Forest is asking if people with savings over £6,000 should have to pay more council tax. Nottingham City Council recently held consultation meetings, two of which took place in the most deprived areas in the city: St Ann's and Bulwell. Each of these meetings had over 30 people at them, mainly unemployed and disabled people who are already suffering from the cruel attacks on benefits and the rise in the cost of living. We were separated into groups and asked who we think should pay for this cut. One woman remarked, "We shouldn't pay anything, what about the bankers and the rich who have caused this mess?" Other comments were unfortunately divisive and were encouraged by the council officers completing the consultation. Blame was quickly diverted from the government of millionaires to single parents, immigrants and people who are long-term unemployed. We must be clear these cuts are no fault of single parents, immigrants or any section of the working class. Councillors instead of deflecting blame onto those already feeling the bite of these vicious cuts are being made to squabble over who should pay up more for mistakes not of their making. Mistakes of the bankers who recklessly gambled away our economy in 2008. The socialist party feels there is great potential to link up disputes locally by uniting all who wish to fight these cynical cuts and there are similarities to the vicious poll tax which Margret Thatcher fell on her sword trying to force though in which the socialist party’s predecessor Militant successfully lead a 18 million strong mass non payment campaign which made the tax unworkable. The Socialist party believes local councils should refuse to pass this cut on and instead mount a fight back and demand the reversal of this cut and the full funding to meet the needs of its most venerable in its community. Already in the press, parallels are being drawn with Thatcher's Poll Tax. There is certainly a huge amount of anger that could be channeled into an anti-Poll Tax style campaign: building in local areas and linking up nationally into a mass campaign, defending people who are being threatened with being taking to court or imprisoned. If there is a discussion in every town and city about how to respond to this cut and the farce of consultations being held by the councils, it could quickly snowball into a campaign. There could be pressure exerted onto the Labour and Green councils to resist this attack and force the government to save council tax benefit! If our councilors refuse to fight, local people should stand in next year's council elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and fight the government ourselves. Which I intend to do if I get the chance. These cuts are not going away wishing them away or blaming Tories will not do we need a concerted fight back today not tomorrow or after 20th October, People are struggling today. With extracts taken from Becci Heagney’s article on http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/14982/06-08-2012/council-tax-benefit-cuts

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