May 18 2013 Latest news:
by Flora Drury
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Some of Haringey’s poorest working families will find themselves £200 worse off per year thanks to government benefit changes - branded a secret “poll tax” by Haringey’s finance chief.
Cllr Joe Goldberg, cabinet member for finance, accused communities secretary Eric Pickles of creating a new “poll tax” - referring to Margaret Thatcher’s infamous tax on every person, which even required the unemployed to pay a share - for cutting government grants for council tax benefit by 10 per cent from next April.
The move means every council has a new financial hole to plug - but Haringey has been hit particularly hard as more than a third of its 92,500 households currently claim council tax benefit, with the number bucking the national trend and rising. Some 29 per cent of claimants are also pensioners, whose payments are protected. Cllr Goldberg believes Haringey will be left with a £6million hole to fill.
He said: “We are going to be the hardest-hit borough in London by a good few million because of the demand here - and we think demand is likely to go up.”
It is an amount Haringey Council says it simply cannot afford to foot in the current climate of cuts - meaning some of the poorest homes, both working and unemployed, will have to pay the difference themselves.
Cllr Goldberg said: “I think people in Haringey will end up paying a ‘Pickles poll tax’ of 22 per cent. These are hardworking families that are low paid but want to go out and earn money.
“We really want to make people aware of what is going to happen. People need to get ready.”
But Haringey’s Liberal Democrat opposition claim there are funds of £4m to plug the gap - a point denied by their Labour colleagues - and have questioned why Haringey is not choosing to use this money.
Resources spokesman Cllr Paul Strang said: “This was known about and budgeted for last year. Labour are now choosing to reverse that decision, take £4million out of their budget, and pass on the pain to some of the poorest households in the borough.
“This means they will have unspent money in the budget. One has to ask why they changed their mind, and what they will now do with that money. Or are they engineering a political point at the expense of some of our most vulnerable residents?”
- The council’s proposals on how to deal with the cut to council tax benefit will go out to consultation in August.