Posts Tagged ‘Tax’

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Exposing Labour’s Council Tax freeze lie

Posted: February 26, 2013 by blackdaffodil in Cutswatch
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[A guest blog on the reality of the council tax freeze and its impacts from Andrew Child, a former Financial Times journalist and a spokesman for Lambeth Green Party.]

Labour-run Lambeth Council has made much of freezing council tax “for everyone” since 2008 (http://whiteag1.miniserver.com/~lambeth/?p=979).   This despite the fact that it has simultaneously been slashing public services, hitting the poor and most vulnerable hardest. The authority claims that the freeze is all about helping such people and was a relentless theme in the recent Brixton Hill by-election. The Labour candidate’s mantra was “I’ll always put people first”…”by voting to FREEZE council tax for the next TWO years.”

BUT Lambeth Council’s refusal to cover a 12 per cent funding shortfall in the new arrangements for paying council tax benefit. – despite its discretion to do so (and 25 per cent of council’s making up the difference) – exposes the lie. The cut in central government funding has been long flagged and the council effectively made it decision not to protect those it claims to was effectively made at Cabinet on July 9 last year.

As the council helpfully explains on its website “the council is not currently minded to provide top-up funding from its own resources.” (http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/Services/CouncilDemocracy/Consultations/CouncilTaxSupportSchemeConsultationYourQuestionsAnswered.htm) . Is this the kind of help Cllr. Ed Davie – chair of the health and adult social care scrutiny committee – had in mind when he tried to justify a second-round of taxpayer-funded “don’t blame the council” political advertising in a recent article in The Guardian? (http://www.guardian.co.uk/local-government-network/2013/feb/07/lambeth-benefit-posters-lazy-socialism).

To be clear: Labour councillors are freezing Council Tax for themselves while effectively hiking it for the poor and most vulnerable. Putting people first? Are you having a laugh?

It is plain that the council thinks there are better ways of spending its money than protecting those most in need. Like, heating the Town Hall to over 27ºC for instance. (http://www.lambethgreennews.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/why-lambeth-is-dirty-man-of-london.html).

The Resolution Foundation in its report “No Clear Benefit” sets out the nationwide impact of the cut for Council Tax benefit funding. (http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/no-clear-benefit/). Some 3.2m working households will be affected, with pensioners the only group exempted. The numbers are horrific: some will see an increase in what they pay of 336 per cent; in monetary terms the funding cut will see some pay up to £600 more a year in Council Tax.  The worst hit? Nationwide, according to Resolution, it is that now all too familiar acronym of BME (black minority ethnic).

Approximately 1 in 3 households in this deprived borough are in receipt of the current benefit, according to Lambeth Council. And the council’s own impact assessment makes clear that worst hit will be women and ethnic minorities. (http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/s51857/04d%20Appendix%203%20-%20Equality%20Impact%20Assessment%20CTS.pdf).

If there was one council that really did need to protect its residents from the cut to Council Tax Benefit, it was Lambeth. Instead, the council will meet on Wednesday to outline a programme of cuts which will make those seen so far look tame.

Ted Knight, a former Labour leader of Lambeth Council in the 1980s has implored current Labour councils to form a coalition of resistance against the cuts. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/30/coalition-resistance-local-council-cuts). To do otherwise he says is “absolutely indefensible”. To say the current Labour leadership of Lambeth Council is thumbing its nose at the likes of Knight would be an understatement. This Labour council is complicit in these brutal, ideological cuts.

UK Uncut came out in force against the cuts in Brixton this morning, cold and rainy as it was, as part of the Big Society Bail-In. The demand? Books Not Bonuses.

So a quick note on why protest Barclays Banks, and just what this is all about:

  • £11.6 billion: the amount of profit Barclay’s made in 2009. They paid tax on only 1% (The Guardian)
  • £6.1 billion: the profit Barclay’s declared in 2010, along with a 23% rise in the average pay of its investment banking arm, Barclays Capital (The Guardian)
  • £9 million: the bonus paid to Chief Exec of Barclays, Bob Diamond, this week — more than 400 nurses earn in a year. (UKuncut)
  • over £100 billion: the Bank of England estimate of the subsidies and guarantees to the banking sector in 2009, which Barclays has benefited from. (The Guardian)

How can it possibly be such an uphill battle to save thousands of jobs, frontline services, and a tradition of taking care of each other, when making Barclays (and all the rest) pay their tax could pay for it all?

So we’ll see you on Wednesday, February 23rd, 6pm at Brixton Town Hall to protest as Lambeth Council votes on a budget that will cut almost every council service, anything up to 1000 council workers, and 25% of all staff.

20,000 nurses are the cost to the taxpayer that UK Uncut estimates Phillip Green, owner of Topshop, avoided paying in one pay day tax dodge in 2005. Today in a snow filled Brixton Lambeth Save Our Services was proud to support UK Uncut on their “Pay-day” protest (advertised on their website). We braved the blizzard to join the demonstrations outside the Topshop and Vodaphone stores which both closed the shutters as we approached. Not that it mattered, there was a good turnout, music, hearty chanting and even an amusing sing a long “if you don’t pay your tax we’ll shut you down”.

Like us, UK uncut are “angry that the government is cutting services for the poorest and most vulnerable whilst letting the rich avoid billions in tax” and one way to vent this anger is to target the massive tax evasion by rich corporations and wealthy business people. This government wrote off £6bn of Vodaphone tax that HM Revenue had spent years in the courts trying to collect, whilst simultaneously slashing public services and benefits. Here in Lambeth the axe falls with at least £36m of cuts next year alone, and thousands of jobs are likely to go.

It gets worse because billionaire businessman Phillip Green is also an advisor to the government on austerity (i.e. cuts). The irony is almost impressive and even the Guardian described his appointment as “shameful”.

There is a video of the protest on YouTube and Urban 75 have some great photos online.

We need more local activity like today’s so that the people of Lambeth can see Lambeth SOS active in the community fighting against cuts to local services and united alongside national campaigns against this millionaire government.

Our next planning meeting is on the 6th Jan in Brixton where we will be planning upcoming lobbies of the council budget and a South London Conference. All of http://www.urban75.org/blog/brixton-topshop-and-vodafone-protests-brave-the-blizzards/our latest events are available on our website.

If you would like to get involved in more stuff like this please join our email discussion group, come to our next meeting and get involved. We welcome everyone and need all the help we can get!