by Roger Harmer on 10 January, 2013
Birmingham’s Labour councillors voted this week to levy 20% council tax charges on households who have previously not had to pay council tax – in the teeth of Liberal Democrat oppositon.
Only two months ago Labour councillors were calling this the “new poll tax”.
Yet in Birmingham the Labour council has rejected a £2.1 million government grant that would have helped prevent this tax being levied.
Proposing that it should not be levied, Lib Dem group leader Paul Tilsley warned the council was unlikely to be able to collect the full tax from non-payers.
And he proposed as an alternative a systematic crackdown of student exemption abuse – calling for the council to obtain details of course drop-outs from colleges and universities.
The government has already allowed the council to levy new council tax charges on owners of empty second homes and this will raise millions.
Speaking on the amendment Cllr Jerry Evans (Lib Dem, Springfield) condemned the ‘hypocrisy’ of a Labour party that complains about benefit cuts and yet fails to take an opportunity to do something about it.
After the vote Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jon Hunt, speaking later in the council meeting, condemned the “grotesque spectacle” of 73 Labour councillors voting to impose new taxes on the city’s poorest families.
This was the Liberal Democrat amendment, proposed Cllr Paul Tilsley, seconded Cllr Jerry Evans:
Add the following to motion:
Subject to amending the words ‘80%’ in sections 4 and 5 of appendix 4 to ‘100%’.
The maintenance of full support for council tax benefit for claimants to be funded by
a) applying for the £2.1 million government transitional grant the executive has proposed not to apply for;
b) setting demanding targets for collection of council tax from those wrongly claiming discounts such as student discounts;
c) Any projected shortfalls – which are likely to be less than £1million – to be included in budget pressures.
d) Recognising that nearly half the cost of council tax localisation will be born by new charges on owners of second homes.