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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 April 2019

Cuts drive council tax debt

Council tax debt can be a huge burden on working-class residents

Council tax debt can be a huge burden on working-class residents   (Click to enlarge)

During the campaign against the Poll Tax, we used to say that the tax was unfair because a lord in his manor was expected to pay the same as a dustman down the road. This analogy resonated, and the campaign resulted in 18 million people not paying the tax, its abolition and the downfall of Thatcher.

When council tax replaced the defeated poll tax, there was a perception that taxing property was generally fairer than individuals, and for a while it was. However, Guardian analysis has revealed that council tax arrears in England have soared in the last five years by 37%.

Government figures show that in 2017-18 council tax debt stood at 3 billion. 305 people were given prison sentences in the same period with a further 6,278 given suspended sentences, for failing to pay their council tax.

Council tax bills, in many areas, have been raised by almost the legal maximum, 4.99%, before a legal referendum is due. This is the biggest increase since the tax was introduced in 1992.

Cuts to benefits and council tax allowance and the introduction of Universal Credit, combined with council tax hikes, have pushed a layer of people over the edge. Ruthless implementation of its collection is a result of years and years of austerity cuts by Tories and Blairites.

With notable exceptions, like the Birmingham bin workers and others, there hasn't been any proper fightback at local level by the trade union movement. We've ended up at a place where virtually everything has been closed, privatised or 'regenerated'. One of the only sources of revenue raising for councils, if they don't fight back, is local taxation - council tax.

The hollowing out of council tax departments means that staff, who would have previously helped people avoid going to court, now don't exist in the same way. Voice recognition and other new technology means that people often don't speak to an actual person.

You're in a crude sanctioning process, and can be bounced into the judicial system, without even knowing it. Similarly, the use of private bailiffs means working to crude targets that criminalise people unnecessarily.

The tax is particularly pernicious to women. Women who incurred small debts have ended up with the bailiffs at their door or even been imprisoned, with all the implications this holds for their families.

We demand that nobody is criminalised because they are poor. And that Labour councils have no truck with the handing out of sentences or using private bailiff firms.

If we are not to end up with a Poplar Council situation (1921), we need mass investment in local government.

Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party

My hell struggling with council tax debt

My council tax debt arose as a result of my son living at home, then taking to the streets to live, being homeless and missing. Debt of 154.

They will not agree a payment plan, because they want it paid before the end of the last tax year. So automatically, I pass to debt collection agents who straight away come to your door, despite me calling and writing to council tax at city council - they won't speak to you.

So long story short, three calls at door by bailiff, I refuse to answer door. Eventually agree a payment plan over the phone of 10 a week i.e. 40 a month.

But some weeks I pay 20 or 10 but always keeping to 40 a month. This wasn't good enough for them because they cannot understand weekly payments, so another bailiff at door.

This time scaring my 15 year old who now won't stay in the house on her own. Our debt is now 545.

I will not be paying their fees. So probably will end up in prison when I finish paying what is 'owed'.

Clare Allington Dixson, Coventry

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In The Socialist 17 April 2019:


What we think

Tories facing electoral meltdown - but only a socialist alternative to austerity can finish them off


News

100 billion for bosses - cuts for us.

Assange arrest: US and allied governments seeking revenge for exposing dirty wars

Labour looks to Bank of England to stall house prices

No-fault evictions ban, but cuts leave tenants vulnerable

Cuts drive council tax debt

Labour needs socialist policies to solve "climate emergency"


Minimum wage

20 years of the minimum wage: Fight for a real living wage for every worker


Workplace news

Newham bin workers ballot for strikes

Arriva Rail North cleaners fight bosses' punitive pay arrears

School staff demand action on pay and testing at NEU conference

Deliveroo workers protest at firm's Nottingham roadshow

PCS union: vital local strikes and a national pay ballot - vote for a fighting leadership

Unison union: right wing tries to block campaigning - elect a socialist leadership


International socialist news and analysis

Sudan: No to rule of the generals!


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Labour councils must act now to save our schools!

Council elections - an opportunity to present a socialist alternative to cuts

Activists rally in fight for more council housing and against high rents

Alternative housing awards

'Reforms' hollow out the NUS

Youth climate strikes: Democratic organisation and socialist policies needed


Opinion

Engels' classic essential for understanding socialist ideas old and 'new'

Real life on Universal Credit: "As soon as I get billed for my electric, I'm finished"

The Socialist Inbox


 

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Tax:

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