Green Party calls for Council Tax amnesty as new stats show Camden used bailiffs 531 times last year against its poorest residents

24 October 2016

Green Councillor Sian Berry is calling on Camden Council to cancel the debts of people in Camden who have run into council tax arrears due to the council's policy of charging council tax to people on benefits and the lowest paid.

Since 2013, Camden Council has charged 8.5% of full council tax to people on low incomes, whether or not they have the ability to pay. Previously, people without funds were given a full discount.

The Child Poverty Action Group has been monitoring how many people have fallen into arrears and been faced with bailiffs and court summonses by councils who decided to charge council tax to the poorest people. For more information on this, please find links at the bottom of this page.

It's latest report 'Still too poor to pay' shows that in Camden 531 households faced bailiffs in 2015/16, whereas no bailiffs had been used in the first year of the scheme.

The council has recently decided to consult on restoring a 100% council tax discount for families with the lowest incomes. The consultation is open until 21 October.

You can get more information on the consultation and the proposed changes here.

Sian Berry says:

"The council must stop charging council tax to people who would pay if they could but simply don't have the funds.

"I urge everyone in Camden to respond to the consultation in favour of full council tax relief for our poorest residents, and urge the council to undo the damage it is causing by bringing in an amnesty for those who have fallen victim to its previous policy."

"It's good that the council has recognised the hardship its policy has caused and is proposing to bring back the 100% discount, but the people in arrears now are those most in need of help and should also have their debts and court costs cancelled and the bailiffs called off."

The CPAG report says that compared with last year:

"While the overall number of claimants has fallen as London's economy has improved, the proportion falling into arrears has risen along with the proportion of those facing enforcement action by bailiffs."

And says:

"We urge London boroughs to reinstate 100 per cent support for their poorest residents, following the lead of the six London authorities that still maintain it."

For the past two years the report has also recommended hardship funds are created by councils to help those in arrears. Ten boroughs have done this so far, but Camden is not among them.

For more information, please follow the links below:

1. Still too poor to pay, CPAG and Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, 5 October 2016

2. Too poor to pay: the impact of the second year of localised council tax support in London, CPAG and 2000 Trust, July 2015

3. A new poll tax? The impact of the abolition of council tax benefit in London. CPAG and Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, July 2014

 

Camden’s action against its poorest residents over the past two years (from the reports above):

 

Camden

Summonses issued

Claimants in arrears

Claimants charged costs

Bailiffs used

2013/14

4,360

Not asked

3,432

0

2014/15

Not held*

4.747

Not held*

Not held*

2015/16

3,313

4,669

2,869

531

 

*In 2014/15, the council changed its data collection so it could not even distinguish between benefit claimants who fell into arrears and were not able to answer these questions or respond to queries from Cllr Berry.

4. We Are Camden consultation (closes 21 October)






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