Joined: 21 Nov 2005
|Posted: Sun Jul 23, 2006 3:53 pm Post subject:
What a load of........Our response to Phill Woolas' response
|ear Mr. Woolas,|
Thank you for your reply dated 16 June in response to my letter of 20 April.
In my 20 April letter I said that the "Dear Resident" form letter sent by your Customer Liaison Unit to many Isitfair supporters had done nothing to placate them for several reasons, including your statement that "Council Tax benefit is available to help those on low incomes". I said that this demonstrated an ignorance of the main reasons for many people's dissatisfaction with the present system of council tax.
I am therefore very disappointed that you have answered several of our concerns by again referring us to the council tax benefits system, and you appear to believe that means testing offers an acceptable solution to the unfairness inherent in the present system. How much longer are you going to keep flogging this dead horse?
I am astonished that in response to our question about plundering people's savings (question 2) you say "Precisely how people pay their council tax bills is clearly a matter for them......", in answer to the percentage of income that people have to pay in council tax (question 3) you say "How much tax is paid is in part the result of individual choice...", and with regard to forcing people to downsize to a property in a lower council tax band (question 9) you come up with the glib statement "It is for individuals themselves to decide how best to manage their personal finances and their council tax liabilities."
It should be unnecessary to tell you that many people in retirement believed they HAD managed their finances, very often by making sacrifices during their working lives in order to set aside savings for their retirement. But they did not budget for their council tax increasing by 123% since 1993, and being forced to use their savings to pay their council tax bill. Many people at present below retirement age now see little incentive to save for their retirement - I wonder why! Council tax is an outrageous percentage of many people's income, and not only pensioners. This year's bills are 80% higher than they would have been if the tax had increased since 1993 in line with this Government's preferred measure of inflation (CPI) - today's average Band D would be £703. Even with the Government's capping at 5% we continue to be presented with spiralling bills at double the rate of inflation. Inflation-busting increases in council tax bills must stop!
Isitfair supporters demand a fair system of taxation for local services. It should be self-evident that there is a fundamental flaw with any system of taxation if a significant percentage of the people who are liable to pay the tax have to be bailed out by the government with a means tested benefit to settle all or part of their tax bill. Dragging more and more people into dependence on means tested benefit will not make it into a fair tax.
In order to better understand the size of the council tax benefit net I would be grateful if you will supply the following information. How many households are liable to pay council tax? How many households receive council tax benefit? In addition to those already receiving it how many households do you estimate are eligible for council tax benefit but at present do not claim it?
You are well aware that people of all ages whose income is outside the threshold for council tax benefit are forced to pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income in council tax. What are you going to do about it?
Finally, we are very concerned that massive 2006/07 parish council increases may be the thin end of a sizeable wedge. Your statement (in answer to question 7) that "parish precepts are very small compared to those of other authorities" is incorrect. In my 20 April letter I mentioned Denmead parish council which has increased its precept by 41% over 2005/06 - this had the effect of increasing overall council tax bills in that area by over 7%. The breakdown of council tax bills in Denmead for 2006/07 is as follows: 69% to Hampshire County Council, 9% to Winchester City Council, 9% to Hampshire Police Authority, 4% to Hampshire Fire & Rescue, and last but not least(!) 9% to Denmead Parish Council.
We are aware of other parish councils whose massive hikes have pushed people's bills over the so-called cap of 5%. We are also aware of a parish council whose precept now exceeds that of the district council. This rapid and uncontrolled escalation in parish council precepts is unacceptable. Please tell me what action you will be taking to ensure that there cannot be a recurrence of such situations in 2007/08.
I look forward to receiving your reply.