It has been revealed that nearly 8000 Swale residents will be affected by a 10% cut to the Government’s Council Tax benefit support when changes are introduced in April. The information emerged when Labour Councillor Adam Tolhurst asked Swale’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Duncan Dewar Whalley, for details of Swale’s proposed scheme, at last Wednesday’s Full Council meeting.
Cllr Tolhurst wanted to know how well the Council has prepared for the extra demand for services such as debt advice, welfare rights advice, help with appeals, requests for discretionary housing payments and private rent safeguards.
In a follow up question, Cllr Tolhurst dismissed the argument that a tightening of benefit would encourage the long term unemployed to find work. He said “there are currently 820 long term unemployed in Swale. The Government’s Work Programme has helped only 3.3% and only 6 people have been helped into work in the last 12 months. This does not suggest that in even tighter circumstances, jobs are going to be easy to find. We are afraid that these changes will lead to people failing to pay Council Tax and possibly rents. The vast majority of people affected by the Council Tax changes are either employed on low rates of pay or are vulnerable and old people. We are heading towards severe social problems. It is perverse that the only people likely to suffer a Council Tax rise are the least well off.”
(Details of the question and answer are on the Swale Borough Council Website)