The cuts debate; comment by hbinfo

With all the current media comments about “work-shy” claimants losing Housing Benefits etc., the April 2013 picture in reality is very different. The cuts in Housing Benefit are huge of course but it is the Council Tax Benefit cuts that will really impact.

The biggest overall losers in percentage numbers are almost certain to be:

a) those on low wages

b) those aged between 50 and pensionable age.

c) owner occupier war widows /ers aged below pensionable age.

This is because the following key issues all interact.

Firstly, the under-occupation rules still apply to those who are in work and the calculation will tend to take them out of housing benefit altogether.

Secondly, those of 50 plus (especially women) will tend to be in larger property in social housing because their children have left home and / or their spouses are deceased. Protection on death only lasts a year; many social landlords admit they will not be able to move affected claimants for many years.

Thirdly, the impact of the Council Tax reduction schemes (known as Council Tax Support to many) is inevitably going to hit the low paid, whatever the Government is suggesting. Local Authorities struggled to get money owed from those in benefits under Poll tax. With schemes such as requiring a minimum of £5 per week entitlement to get anything at all in CTS being mooted, the loss will fall squarely on the employed in many areas. If the Government was hoping to reduce work incentives then this is the way to do it!

Finally, the loss of a national disregard for working age war pensioners seems to have been missed by many. DCLG suggest that local Authorities can use local discretion (but NOT DHP’s) to mitigate this but with funding being cut so much, many may choose not to use any discretion at all for this group.

The Council Tax Support position is extraordinary. With no Act in place yet and a requirement to have a full scheme in place by the end of January 2013, English local authorities are coming up with a mixture of schemes, often based on what their IT and computer systems can do rather than on any other local factor. It is a complete mess by any standards.

Hbinfo is completely independent and does not support any political party or take any position on behalf of any group