Dear Dame Joan, 

Council Tax and the elderly. 

On behalf of Isitfair, the nationwide, non-Party political pressure group campaigning for the reform of Council Tax, congratulations on your appointment to the new and much needed rôle as the "Voice of Older People". 

Much has been said recently about people, particularly the elderly, being in fuel poverty (i.e. spending more than 10% of their income on heating) but many are also suffering to an even greater extent from what can be termed Council Tax poverty in that their Council Tax bills are even higher than their energy bills. 

Many older people (and some not so old) are seeing 15%; 20%, or more of their income gobbled up by Council Tax. And, Council Tax cannot be reduced by insulating the loft; fitting low-energy light bulbs, or turning the thermostat down a degree or two - and then "wearing two jumpers" - as recommended by Jake Ulrich, the managing director of Centrica in July 2008 as he pocketed his £1 million-plus salary. 

Many people, particularly the elderly, are now dreading the arrival of their Council Tax bills for 2009/10, many of which will be increased by between 3% and 5% when compared to last year's bills. 

I imagine that you will be aware of the cases where some pensioners, after exhausting all other means of trying to get the system of local authority funding changed, have, in protest, refused to pay just a fraction of their Council Tax - and been thrown in gaol for their efforts. 

These protesters have been even more incensed when they see Council Tax fraudsters, who have cheated the system out of £ thousands in some cases, get off with no more than a community order or some other slap on the wrist. Many are also incredulous when they learn of the astronomical salaries paid to executive officers in their councils and the amount of taxpayers' money that goes towards their guaranteed, final-salary pensions. 

It's not that we oldies don't want to contribute to the cost of local services - we just want a fairer system of charging. Isitfair and its supporters the length and breadth of the country would like to see this iniquitous and regressive tax replaced by a system of funding local government that is based on ability to pay and not on the estimated and forever fluctuating value of one's home. 

The need for reform is even greater now in light of the credit crunch; falling interest rates, and the aforementioned sky-high energy prices.

The Council Tax Benefit (CTB) system is not the answer. The 40-page application form is far too complicated and, surely, it must be the case that any tax that, for a growing number of people, relies on a benefit to enable payment has to be seriously flawed? 

Please take a look at our web site at www.isitfair.co.uk where you will see that we are a totally voluntary and non-party-political organisation. We depend entirely on voluntary donations - most of which are postage stamps. We have thousands of contacts on our email and postal mailing lists - many of whom are members of other like-minded groups across the country (Crawley Pensioners Group, Devon Pensioners Action Forum, to name but two) who distribute our newsletters to an even wider audience. 

We have organised two well-attended marches in London. We have delivered an 80,000+ signature petition to 10 Downing Street. We persuaded some 60 MPs to present petitions from the floor of the House of Commons, and we have had meetings - in Westminster - with MPs from all three main political parties to get our points across. All to no avail. We are still being hammered by inflation-busting increases in Council Tax. 

In the realisation that I will probably only get one chance to persuade you to take an interest in our campaign, I hope that this letter will encourage you to consider our plea and that you will, at the very least, spare some time to meet and talk with us. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,  

Mike Schofield

Isitfair committee member 

Cc: Christine Melsom

Email: c@isitfair.co.uk

Web: www.isitfair.co.uk

 

If you have written to Dame Joan as suggested in our last newsletter, and received a reply, we would be interested to hear