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Agenda item

Councillor Osborne asked the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Deputy Leader, Councillor Jarrett, the following:

Can the Portfolio Holder for Finance confirm that given 14,180 people will be paying an additional Pickles Poll Tax of on average £233 as a result of his government, how many residents in Medway will be paying more than £400, £500, £600, £700 and £800 in light of the recent localisation of Council Tax, and what has been the level of contact with Medway MPs on this topic?

Minutes:

Can the Portfolio Holder for Finance confirm that given 14,180 people will be paying an additional Pickles Poll Tax of on average £233 as a result of his government, how many residents in Medway will be paying more than £400, £500, £600, £700 and £800 in light of the recent localisation of Council Tax, and what has been the level of contact with Medway MPs on this topic?

 

Councillor Jarrett stated that the exact number would vary from day to day as people’s circumstances change, but as at 16 January 2013 there were 14,521 working age claimants who would be expected to contribute towards their council tax. However, 3,250 of these claimants were already contributing something towards their council tax.

 

The average amount payable across all working age claimants will be £223 per annum.

 

Out of the 14,521 working age claimants:

 

  • 692 claims would be affected by over £400 a year;
  • 48 claims would be affected by over £500 a year;
  • 72 claims would be affected by over £600 a year;
  • 2 claims by over £700 (one of whom is on 2nd adult rebate);
  • 9 claims would be affected by over £800. All of those in the £800 plus group had at least three non-dependants where there was now going to be a deduction of £3.65 for each week from 1 April 2013.

 

Councillor Jarrett reported that the three MPs had been involved in quite extensive discussions about this matter in terms of the Council’s representations, which had been made to the Local Government Association and to the Department of Communities and Local Government and he stated that the three MPs had joined the Council in making those representations.

 

Councillor Jarrett stated that this had to be looked at more widely and that he had used the term working age claimants advisedly because what the government had done was to exempt pensioners from this measure. Locally it had been recommended that war widows would also be exempt from these proposals and he believed this was right and proper, particularly in the current circumstances.

 

Councillor Jarrett referred to the root cause and the genesis for all of these austerity measures and they went back to the profligate spending of the last government on a whole range of things, some of which were worthwhile of course but some were less so but spending money in a bizarre out of control fashion. Fortunately, Labour were not re-elected to clear up their own mess leaving an incoming Conservative administration to clear up the mess and that was being done at the moment.

 

He stated that this is one of the austerity measures that had been taken. It was a measure which he did not necessarily approve of, nor did he approve of some of the ways it had been carried out, nonetheless it was an essential measure to try and prevent this country from going bankrupt.

 

Councillor Osborne stated that 800 of our poorest residents were going to pay for this fiasco. He asked that given that the Council was already labelled the worst council in the south east for council tax collection with some £6m outstanding, had the Portfolio Holder done any scenario testing about whether these people, who were some of the poorest in the community, would be able to afford such a massive increase in tax this year?

 

Councillor Jarrett stated that Councillor Osborne was wrong with his figures as the Council had actually collected 98.6% of council tax. There was always a large outstanding amount and it was collected over a period of some years, with the great majority of council tax due being collected in the first year and subsequent collections ongoing after that. However, there would be a point some time in the future where write-offs had to be dealt with.

 

He stated that the Council was well aware that these measures, as lobbied on by the Council, had the potential to have a detrimental affect on the collection rate. He did not foresee any detrimental affect for the coming financial year but it could well be for the year after. He stated he was not in a position to accurately forecast what that diminution on the collection rate would be but recognised that there may be a problem which would be dealt with in due course. He stated that if it were in not for the mess that the previous Labour government left the country in, there would not have been this discussion tonight.