For those of you not aware, Council tax debt is the most common debt seen by Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) advisers. The CAB estimated in the first 3 months of Coronavirus, Councils across the UK reported an increase of £500 million in council tax arrears, suggesting at least 1.3 million households had fallen behind on the bill during that time.
70 Kent County Cllrs have signed a letter which has by sent to Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick urging him to scrap Council Tax.
The hypocrisy is staggering.
Faversham county councillor Antony Hook (Lib Dem) and Barrister (below left), proposed a letter be sent to Mr Jenrick, described the current system as “out of date” and “unfair”.
Locally, this got support from District Cllr Tim Prater (above right) who blogged about it on his Cllr webpage just a week ago.
Almost a year ago Cllr Prater promised us all a conversation about Council Tax, which he called The Elephant in the Room. But of course, no such conversation has taken place (quelle surprise).
He and his local Lib Dems campaigned on the fact FHDC had the highest Council Tax in Kent in April 2019. Of course, Cllr Prater stole this fact from the Shepway Vox Team who blogged about in March 2019.
Once Cllr Prater got elected, he decided after a year to join Cllr Monk’s Cabinet as the member responsible for Council Tax. Then he preceded to send in the bailiffs more than ever before to collect unpaid Council Tax.
Now having Tories and Lib Dems write to Mr Jenrick about Council Tax is hypocritical, as we said. The reasons being are multitudinous.
A Brief History of Council Tax
Oct 1991-March 1992 Michael Heseltine’s team hastily create a new taxation model stitching together parts of the old rates system with bits of the poll tax – and call it ‘Council Tax’…
March 1992 – the Local Government Finance Act 1992 is ready and the new Council Tax system is presented to Parliament.
The Council tax is promised as a ‘simple, straightforward and fair’ tax with 100% benefit for the poorest ….a beautiful creature…
1st April 1993 – the council tax comes to life…..
But within the Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) Regulations 1992 SI 613 lurks the same system of recovery as poll tax…
In July 2007 the then Labour Govt introduce the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 – which wanted to give bailiffs powers of forced entry. However, after opposition these plans are dropped.
Between May 2010 – Oct 2012 – The Coalition Government Conservatives & Lib Dems continue amending council tax and cut welfare. Eric Pickles replaces Council Tax Benefit with Local Reduction Schemes.
The Local Reduction Schemes are enormously complex just like the Matrix.
Here are three examples from Folkestone & Hythe District Council Tax Reduction Schemes, overseen by Cabinet Member for Revenues & Benefits service. Anti fraud and corruption, Cllr Tim Prater (pictured). He himself probably doesn’t understand these schemes.
On 1 April 2013 Council Tax Benefit was removed completing the transformation of council tax back to poll tax for the poorest in 250 out of 326 local authority areas….
From April 2013 onwards, the numbers of debt cases before the courts rose enormously. Not since the witch trials (or the poll tax) have so many poor and vulnerable people been taken to court at one time.
On the 6th April 2014, the Coalition Govt quietly reintroduced the rights of bailiffs to force entry into your property for non-payment of Council Tax.
There is a major impact on the poor and vulnerable with inflated court costs and bailiff fees added to debts… which still happens today.
As we wrote in 2018, and Alan Murdie, LL.B, Barrister, editor, Child Poverty Action Group Council Tax Handbook wrote in 2017 Council Tax is a system of debt creation.
And dealing with a council tax debt is no longer like fighting Dracula … But more like trying to fight them.
So, when a Lib Dem KCC Cllr, or a Tory KCC Cllr says Council Tax is “regressive“, “out of date” or “unfair“, neither party want you to remember what damage their respective parties have heaped on many people across our County.
In 2018 a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRT) compared council tax to what it replaced – the poll tax, which provoked mass riots and the beginning of the end of Thatcher. The report slammed the unfair council tax system for failing to keep up with booms in property wealth, meaning the people benefitting from rocketing house prices don’t pay enough, while those on lower incomes and young people are penalised.
In addition, richer areas have more properties in higher bands so can set lower rates and still fund the services they need. A four-bed house in Mayfair in London worth £4.2 million is in the highest band (H), but has to pay Westminster council £2,846.10 a year – which is £1369.92 lower than a Band H in New Romney. This postcode lottery simply can’t continue.
The JRT report recommends replacing council tax with a property tax related to up-to-date values and regular revaluations. The tax would either be proportional to property value or progressive, via tax-free allowances and different rates to cater for regional variation in property value. Either option would reduce bills for the vast majority while increasing income for local councils.
In 2018/19 all Kent Councils – including Medway issued 63,061 Households with Liability Orders for unpaid Council Tax, which is the equivalent of 9.3% of all households in Kent.
Also in 2018/19, Kent Councils sent bailiffs into 42,893 households to collect that Council tax , which is equivalent to 6.3% of all households in Kent.
Until we get much-needed national reform, all Kent Councils need to think about what they can change locally so the services supplied to Kent residents are funded without the tax burden being shoved onto those who can least afford it. It’s time to talk about that elephant, locally and nationally.
The Shepway Vox Team
The Velvet Voices of Dissent