A report published this week by the Resolution Foundation has now found that Surrey Heath has come 1st out of 235 Councils in England. Good news?
Sadly not…for this independent report has looked at the financial impact for those affected by the changes in Council Tax benefit. Every Council across the country has now agreed a scheme for April 2013 which means all of them can now be compared.
The result is shocking…
Out of 235 Councils, there are only 6 Councils who will be charging the average claimant more than £5 a week. Remember, these are people who the Govt deem are in such poverty that their Council Tax should be paid for perhaps because due to disability or mental health issues. Some will be working but in very low paid jobs and with little or no savings. In short, these are households for whom every penny counts and many pay nothing at present. I have already previously blogged on the 1800+ households in Surrey Heath and their often desperate background reliant on the goodwill of charities.
Here are these six councils in order (average per claimant):-
1. Surrey Heath BC – £380 a year
2 = Castle Point BC and Harrow – £307
4. Rutland – £291
5= Hertsmere and Welwyn/Hatfield – £265
The average of the 235 Councils is £146. There will of course be many who will be charged considerably more than the average £380.
(You can find Surrey Heath in Row 281)
So how come Surrey Heath come up with this horrific total?
Well, Surrey Heath was one of only 4 Councils in the whole country who controversially decided to implement a 30% minimum for claimants (the others being York, Castle Point and Wakefield). In contrast, around 20% of councils opted for no contribution and around 50% went for the Govt proposal of 8.5% (for which a grant was available)
However, Surrey Heath also decided to implement a number of other changes such as limiting benefit to Band D properties and reducing the savings levels. The other 3 Councils refused to do this in their schemes. Other Surrey schemes also introduced these changes but even other Conservative authorities refused to implement the 30% minimum.
The Surrey Heath vote was 20 Conservative Councillors in favour.
And 6 who wanted the officer recommendation (1 Lab, 2 Ind, 1 LD and 2 Con)
It appears that the overwhelming majority of Councils across the country and regardless of their political persuasion recognised the impact to the most vulnerable. Just as important, they recognised that it was simply not cost effective to charge more due to the extra collection costs, bad debts, additional homelessness etc. that would occur to the public purse.
In contrast and by some considerable distance, Surrey Heath has now shown itself to be the most out of touch council in the whole country. This follows a week where many Surrey Heath Conservatives have been publicly arguing with each other in an often bitter manner much to the obvious anger and frustration of their other party members!
The real sadness is that it appears that whilst gay marriage has generated a huge amount of passionate argument amongst local Conservatives, the plight of 1872 Surrey Heath households severely impacted by this decision has completely passed them by…