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Council Tax consultation immoral and probably illegal, say Greens

The Bristol Green Group of councillors have today called on the Mayor to re-examine the Council’s ongoing consultation on cuts to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme as they believe it may be illegal.

The potential illegality comes from the fact that the Council’s consultation does not include a ‘no cuts’ option, instead asking people to choose from three different cuts options. A Supreme Court ruling in 2014 found that Haringey Council’s consultation on council tax reduction was illegal for this reason (Supreme court decision here). Several other councils have also fallen foul of the law with their consultations, including Solihull, who ended up having to re-run their consultation.

Green Councillors also condemned the unfairness of the options in the consultation proposed, which by their nature would result in a huge tax rise for the poorest in the city.

Councillor Carla Denyer said: “The proposed cuts to Council Tax Reduction Scheme are in my view deeply immoral and would inevitably see visits from bailiffs imposed on the poorest in Bristol, as those already under immense pressure due to cost of living increases are simply unable to pay. They are likely to result in increased homelessness and see many more households relying on food banks just to get by. The likelihood that the consultation on these changes may be illegal makes our case even stronger – at the very least the Mayor must re-draw the consultation to give Bristolians a real choice and allow them to protect the poorest in the city from these cruel cuts.”

Leader of the Green Group, Councillor Eleanor Combley, pointed out that as well as hitting the most vulnerable hardest, the proposed cuts would save a relatively small sum of money. She said:

“The Council’s guide to the consultation presented ‘net’ savings which didn’t take into account increased costs from administration or enforcement, or provide any estimate of the increased costs to other council services which would be a likely knock-on effect of the cuts - for example, greater pressure on mental health services and increased homelessness. So as well as causing a huge amount of pain for the poorest Bristolians the cuts could generate very little financial gain. Camden Council recently reinstated its full council tax support largely for this reason. We’re calling on the mayor to look into the legality of the consultation as a matter of urgency. We would prefer it is scrapped altogether but if the Mayor insists on running a consultation it must be run it with a no-cuts option to maintain council tax support for the poorest in Bristol.”

Contact

Councillor Eleanor Combley

Cllr.eleanor.combley@bristol.org.uk

@EleanorComb

Background info

Camden Councillor Sian Berry campaigning for council tax amnesty and for the 100% relief: https://camden.greenparty.org.uk/news/2016/10/24/green-party-calls-for-council-tax-amnesty/

Official PR from Camden council: http://news.camden.gov.uk/camden-exempts-12000-lowest-income-households-from-council-tax/

Comment from a London-based poverty action group: http://z2k.org/2016/07/camden-council-proposed-introduction-of-100-council-tax-support/

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