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Minister Eric Pickles blasts 'plutocratic' councils for plan to tax poor

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 18, 2012

Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles

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Proposals to make the Westcountry's poorest residents pay a share of council tax has been labelled "disgusting" by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.

Councils across Devon and Cornwall have been considering proposals to effectively end the 100% council tax discount for hard-pressed families from April, including those out of work.

The possible change has been compared to the introduction of the poll tax and could mean households that pay nothing face huge bills.

Tory-led Cornwall Council is considering a 25% cut to so-called council tax benefit, which means asking residents to pay at least a quarter of their bill.

By contrast, Conservative South Hams and West Devon councils – which were considering a 30% and 25% cut respectively – have postponed the reform for a year.

Speaking to the regional newspaper political editors at Westminster, Mr Pickles pointed out that many councils had avoided making low-income households pay. But others were planning to tax the poor, he said.

"That struck me as being obscene," he added. Councils could instead focus on helping people find work, he said.

"I thought it was a singularly unambitious scheme, just taxing people who are in receipt of council tax benefit rather than helping them get into work, dealing with mistakes and fraud."

He added: "Their job is not to tax the poor. It's to help the poor.

"That's why I'm so angry with these plutocratic city leaders who are not prepared to get alongside the poor. Who are happy for people to stay on benefit."

He said he was considering using his powers as Secretary of State to order councils not to impose council tax charges on the unemployed.

Latest Government figures show 157,000 people in Devon and Cornwall claim council tax benefit.

The council proposals follow a 10% Government cut to rebates available to councils, and giving local authorities control of council tax benefits for the first time. But the cut has left councils with a black hole to fill. For example, Cornwall Council has to find £6 million and Plymouth City Council has a £2 million shortfall.

Much depends on the grant handed down by Whitehall to councils from April. The latest local government settlements are expected to be announced this week.

Councillor Alex Folkes, deputy leader of Cornwall Council's Liberal Democrat group, said the poorest households in the area would be worse off by up to £950 a year, and plans could lead to "the social cleansing of areas with higher property prices".

He added: "Council tax benefit is only given to those who really need it, mostly people who are in low-paid work or full-time carers. Trying to get more money out of people who have none will bring Christmas cheer to bailiffs but no-one else."

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  • billinbarum25  |  December 19 2012, 7:43PM

    polite reply to cruey,, since leaving school in the mid seventies i have twice in the past been made redundant. i have also lost one job through immediate company closure, i'v been divorced and at one time homeless,, i have also had one hip replacement and then returned to work within 6 weeks, every time i'v had a knock back i have sucked it up and got on with it, not once did i expect hard working tax payers to suport me, unlike some who seem to prefer sitting around feeling sorry for themselves expecting hand outs,

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  • cheekyman_jr  |  December 19 2012, 3:51PM

    Good luck Cruey.

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  • Countrylover  |  December 19 2012, 3:07PM

    Of course they should share the cuts. The more that is given to the so called poor then the more they want as a "right". I have been very poor,took any job I could do to help pay bills.What we could not afford we didnt buy, even at christmas we didnt buy expensive presents that would put us into debt. I also agree with the cutting of reduction in council tax for 2nd homes, in fact it should be trebled to encourage them to sell. Mr Pickles is also wrong to demand weekly bin collections, it takes a month or more for ours to get filled, tho we do not buy ready meals complete with packaging. The weekly recyling encourages more recycling but weekly rubbish would encourage even more just to be throw away. NDC is not a very good council in many ways the obsession with houses that have caused flooding, the lack of clearing drains to stop flooding so make repairs cost far less. The planners too are useless. There are three Tescos but they refuse to let a Morrison or Asda which would be competition especially if a petrol station was included. They are though allowing a Tesco express. How do these decisions get made, many suspect or even must know how!!!

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  • josdave  |  December 18 2012, 11:09PM

    If H-Trevorrow only bothered to read the facts he would know that the amount the government has taken off the rich is peanuts compared to that which he has taken from the less well off. The 10p reduction in the top rate did not raise a fraction of what he has taken from everyone else. Not only that He (H-Trev...) blames Brownn for not controlling the banks has he not noticed that Cameron is terrified of upsetting his friends in the city who all vote Tory so he will not do anything to upset the well oiled applecart of the well heeled bankers.

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  • twain1  |  December 18 2012, 10:47PM

    Methinks the Fat Mr Pickles wants his cake and wants to eat it. All. Find £6m more from the ratepayer.

  • Jungle_Jim  |  December 18 2012, 9:28PM

    stevepz I think the line is "narcissism don't you just love yourselves" ;-)

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  • Cruey  |  December 18 2012, 8:26PM

    @billinbarum...well I only hope you never find yourself unemployed through no fault of your own...... send off 20/30 applications a week for work and get the odd response........ or in fact how's about if .( God forbid) you found yourself suddenly disabled or terminally ill ...... you selfish thoughtless person ...not all are PARISITES....... TRY PUTTING A LITTLE MORE THOUGHT INTO YOUR COMMENTS AND DO NOT TAR ALL WITH THE SAME BRUSH

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  • Doitdreckley  |  December 18 2012, 7:59PM

    What rubbish H Trevorow talks. The seeds of the financial crisis were sown with the deregulation of the City by the Thatcher government in the late 80s and the encouragement of personal debt in the 'loadsofmoney' culture. An international financial crisis was triggered by 125%+ home loans on both sides of the Atlantic. If Gordon Brown had not nationalised the banks (one quarter of the national debt) then there would have been no money in cash machines and consequent social disorder. Do your research instead of getting your opinions out of the Daily Mail.

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  • billinbarum25  |  December 18 2012, 7:18PM

    as an employed, home owner i am expected to pay costantly increasing taxes to fund the so-called "poor/low earning" well i am one of those "low earning" and dont get a single penny in help or benifit, why should i pay for the parisites of society when i can hardly afford to pay for myself and my family. if they use the services they should stop expecting others to cover the cost for them.

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  • stevepz  |  December 18 2012, 5:50PM

    I love posts that read like this. "How dare people here post comments that I don't agree with. What of load of idiots you all are". narcissism don't you just love it.

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