Islington Council has voted almost unanimously to leave its council tax support scheme unchanged for the coming financial year.
The Town Hall has said that the move to retain the reduction in 8.5 per cent compared to that which claimants would have received prior to the abolition of council tax benefit by the government in 2013 is being funded out wholly from its own funds, despite central government removing transitional grants after the cut.
However, Green Islington councillor Caroline Russell AM voted against the maintenance of the scheme, saying that she would be bringing forward proposals next year to “remove this punitive 8.5 per cent of council tax that the people eligible for the CTRS are finding it so hard to find”.
Cllr Russell added: “I’m sure that everyone in this chamber can agree that those whose financial health is poor needs every bit of support can give them.
“The increase in council tax arrears amongst people on the council tax relief scheme show that people are just too poor to pay.
“I will once again vote against the council tax relief scheme, because I believe the priority should be the financial health of the poorest residents and that we should find a way to relieve these people of a growing burden of debt.”
According to a report presented by Cllr Andy Hull (Lab, Highbury West), executive member for finance, residents are “worried about how changes to council tax support would affect them personally”, citing concerns over “financial difficulty, welfare reform, supporting the family, coping through disability, [and] finding a job”.
As a result, the Town Hall says it has chosen to limit how much it caps the council tax support scheme by to 8.5 per cent, which Hull’s report says “provid[es] residents with a greater opportunity to adapt to the significant changes and cuts that have been made to welfare benefits generally by central government”.
Cllr Hull responded to the Green Party councillor that she was welcome to amend the proposals ahead of time, and characterised her comments on evictions were “disingenuous”, saying that Islington residents are not evicted for council tax arrears.
Cllr Hull said: “When you look at the resident support scheme and the council tax support scheme side by side, you’ll see that our spend in Islington is higher than that in Hackney, Haringey, and Camden. We should be proud of the scheme we have here.”