Council Tax Changes 2013 – Millions more will have to pay

The current system of Council Tax Benefit (CTB), which is claimed by 5.9 million low income families in the UK, is to be abolished from April 2013. Millions of the poorest households face council tax rises because most councils in England will pass on a 10% benefit funding cut, research suggests. Now known as Council Tax Support, the Government will provide funding to local authorities in England and to the Scottish and Welsh governments to design their own systems of Council Tax support, but this funding will only be 90% of this year’s budget for Council Tax Benefit  (CTB) in each local authority area. This means that local councils will be expected to find 10% savings in the design and administration of their replacement schemes.

The Government believes this new system will:

give local councils increased financial independence and a greater stake in the economic future of their local area

establish stronger incentives for councils to get people back into work

simplify the complex system of current criteriaq and allowances

save up to £480 million a year.

It is likely that many people who currently receive 100% CTB may have to pay a proportion of their Council Tax bill in the future, but how much they pay will be different in different areas – which in turn may hinder people moving to a different area.

The government has  also published guidance indicating some of the factors that would be present in a ‘well-designed’ scheme, such as:

People currently entitled to 100% support under CTB arrangements pay no more than 8.5% of their net Council Tax liability

The taper rate does not increase above 25% (the current CTB taper rate is 20%)

There is no sharp reduction in support for those entering work

There should be no large additional increases in non-dependant deductions.

 

Most people of working age and out of work WILL have to contribute – but it is going to depend on where you live. 82% of councils will be reducing the level of support for council tax benefit recipients. Only 18% will be making no change, thus absorbing the entire funding cut into their council budget.

The Government say the changes will give councils the incentive to help people off benefits and into work but the fact of the matter is there will be many people who literally will not be able to pay their council tax.

The Universal Credit & The Benefit Cap – It might affect your family

From April 2013 a limit will be put on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called a benefit cap. At first this will only affect people in 4 council areas: Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey. All other areas will introduce the cap by the end of September 2013.

If you’re affected, your Housing Benefit will go down to make sure that the total amount of benefit you get isn’t more than the cap level. If you’re already getting benefits and could be affected by the cap, you’ll be contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). They’ll let you know what will happen to your benefits.

The level of the cap will be:

£500 a week for couples (with or without children living with them).

£500 a week for single parents whose children live with them.

£350 a week for single adults who don’t have children, or whose children don’t live with them.

The cap will apply to the total amount that the people in your household get from the following benefits:

Bereavement Allowance

Carers Allowance

Child Benefit

Child Tax Credit

Employment & Support Allowance (unless you get the support component)

Guardians Allowance

Housing Benefit

Incapacity Benefit

Income Support

Jobseekers Allowance

Maternity Allowance

Severe Disablement Allowance

Widowed Parents Allowance (or Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widows Pension you started getting before 9 April 2001)

You won’t be affected by the benefit cap if you qualify for Working Tax Credit or if you get any of the following benefits:

Disability Living Allowance

Personal Independence Payment (from April 2013)

Attendance Allowance

Industrial Injuries Benefits (and equivalent payments as part of a war disablement pension or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme)

Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) if you get the support component

War Widow’s or War Widower’s Pension

High Street Money Lenders

Are these payday lenders a good thing or not? I suppose they are better than private loansharks who will happily threaten or beat people up for defaulting on a loan but I do question the ethics of some of them. It seem as as long as you can prove you are on benefits then you get the money. People on benefits are struggling to pay for everything as it is, quite how they can pay back a loan totally beats me.

One money advice charity has seen the amount borrowers seeking help rise by 4000% in 6 years. I suppose it is good that people are seeking help but maybe if it wasn’t so easy to get a loan from these High Street shops in the first place it wouldn’t be so much of a problem.

I appreciate that there is a need for these lenders but surely they need to be far more careful who they lend to and to be far more open and honest about their charges which are much higher than the High Street banks.

Bulk-Buying Energy – Councils Leading The Way

Some councils are now trying to help residents by bulk-buying energy. South Lakeland Council and Birmingham City Council are just a couple who are now helping local communities and residents benefit from bidding for cheaper fuel the same way that businesses do. Residents have the opportunity to be socially responsible and use their purchasing power to both make savings for themselves but also, through the share of the switching fee paid by the suppliers to the Council, help their neighbours who may be struggling to heat or insulate their homes due to rising fuel costs.

Depending on which report you choose to read, households living in fuel poverty number between 3 million to approximately 8 million – either way too many people are having to spend way too much of their income on energy bills.
It seems to me that to have any council bulk-buy energy for its residents is a good thing – at least they are trying to help us.

The most important thing is that it does actually save money for people. I know because my council does it. Unfortunately, I’m already in the process of switching to a cheaper supplier and couldn’t sign up but I was really happy (or unhappy) to find I could have saved another £120 a year on top of the £240 I had saved by swapping suppliers anyway. Still, when the scheme is open again next year you can be sure I will be signing up.

So find out if your council is bulk-buying energy. If it isn’t tell them to get involved and start helping its residents combat fuel poverty.

Cameron finally visits foodbanks

Well the PM finally got around to visiting two foodbanks last week. He didn’t bother to meet any of the public or are being forced to use the service – but that was to be expected really (he would probably have been lynched).
13 million people in the UK live below the poverty line across the UK. Many go hungry after receiving unexpected bills that they cannot pay or losing their jobs. 128,687 people used foodbanks last year and the number is expected to rise to 230,000 this year, due to rising household bills for food and fuel and high unemployment.
Whilst we are ALL going through tough times at the moment it is worth remembering that the use of foodbanks actually went up 10 times in the last labour government so it is not all his fault – just most of it!

The Horsemeat Saga – it is our fault!

I rather suspect that this scandal will run on for quite a long time so I may as well put my views down in writing now.
The horse is my favourite animal. I worked with them for years. I bred them, rode them, raced them, cared for them and generally loved them. But I also had to personally euthanise two and watch others leave my yard alive to be transported to France for the dining table there.
I went to France many times as a child and to be perfectly honest, I am unsure as to whether I have eaten horse meat or not. Either way – it wouldn’t bother me. I’m also unsure as to exactly how bothered the British general public are – I’ve not discussed it with my friends or heard it being discussed in supermarkets etc either. I’m more irritated that unscrupulous people have deliberately put horse meat into the system with the sole aim of deceiving making money. It starts with the abattoirs (they know exactly what they are killing) and moves on to the processing plant (they know the difference between beef and horse meat)but to blame the general public and or buyers like councils is NOT on. I heard one bloke from the food company Iceland saying that if buyers like councils etc stopped driving the price down then this wouldn’t have happened. Excuse me? If councils want to buy beef at cheaper prices that is fine – the wholesaler shouldn’t swap it for horse meat just because they make less money on beef. And the best comment came from some woman in a government department bemoaning that the general public should buy more expensive cuts of beef because that way we would know that it is 100% beef and not a poorer quality of beef. She said “The general public are just getting what they pay for”. How dare she. If the general public can only afford a cheap pack of beefburgers then that is what they should get – Beefburgers not Horseburgers. She obviously doesn’t realise that the poorest amongst us are paying the price in this current recession and we actually DON’T have a choice – we HAVE to buy the cheapest. Heat or eat or cut down and buy cheaper alternatives. It is called “trying to survive”.

More Energy Price Rises To Come

I don’t know about anyone else but I am so fed up (and quite frankly worried)with the news from OFGEM that energy prices might have to rise again. The fact that OFGEM have warned us of this will, in my opinion, just give the energy companies a free rein to hike up prices at their will.
We can blame the government, since the rises due will be caused by the closure of power stations. Great.
One simple question. How is anyone, especially the poorest of us, expected to be able to afford the bills?

Fail fail fail Mr Cameron

Food banks are getting busier as austerity hits those least well-prepared to cope. The six-fold increase in Food banks reveals the failure of the governments Welfare Reform. This is set to get worse as the start of the Universal Credit is messed up already – the “Flagship” computer system is only working 25% of the time on trials currently in operation.
Fail, fail fail Mr Cameron.

MPs? Shame on them all.

The Trussell Trust expected to hand out around 15,000 Christmas Hampers over the two week Christmas period from its 292 Food Banks.
It is hardly surprising with 13 million people living on and below the breadline.

I don’t see MP’s taking a large pay decrease or paying higher taxes .. no…. they are just happy to take money off the poorest in society because the poorest are just “scroungers” and can’t hit back, whilst some of them are still fiddling their expenses. Double standards.

Shame on them all.