When even the Prime Minister’s own Tory controlled local authority, West Oxfordshire District Council, throw up their arms in despair, you know that something is truly rotten.
Cameron’s own councillors are objecting to so called council tax reforms which they say will cost their poorest residents an extra £420 a year. Furthermore, they say that that these changes do not provide any incentive for work – in fact quite the reverse.
In Tower Hamlets, we know that when Cameron and his friends talk of ‘reform’, really they mean ‘cuts’. A few months ago the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies issued a damning report which stated that these housing benefit cuts replicated the worst elements of the poll tax and stated that councils could be left chasing desperately poor people through the courts for very small amounts of money.
We don’t want to be in the position of chasing our vulnerable residents for tiny amounts of money. Nor do we intend to be. Moreover the haphazard and incompetent way that government has made these changes is appalling. They have given local councils almost no time to properly work up a scheme which wouldn’t just be a burden on the most vulnerable. Not that has prevented us here in Tower Hamlets from being prepared.
For all of these reasons, here in Tower Hamlets, we have decided not to punish the poor and the vulnerable. While we cannot stop this Government from doing its worst, I have decided to use all of the influence and power at my disposal to ensure that the shortfall of £2.7 million which we now face as a result of Cameron’s cuts and his abolition of the national council tax scheme will not be passed to our local residents.
I will shortly be writing to all those potentially affected by these changes in the borough to reassure them and to inform them that I have introduced a new scheme, whereby all of those currently in receipt of council tax benefit, will continue to receive it.