solihull mbc large logoIn July it was reported that a Solihull Council consultation asked: ‘Do you agree that working age people in Solihull who are liable to pay council tax should be asked to pay a minimum of 15% cent towards their council tax?’. Cllr James Burn pointed out that the document did not make it clear that the proposal applied only to Solihull’s most vulnerable residents who are least able to pay, nor that this rise of 15% should be compared with a proposed rise of only 1% for those on a higher income.

Dismal alternatives presented in an internal council advisory document but omitted from the consultation included:

  • reducing the amount of savings people can have before they qualify for support;
  • removing a discount people can receive if a second adult in the household is on a low income;
  • and technical changes to how people are assessed as being eligible for support.

james_burn_144Mr Burn, Green Party councillor for Chelmsley Wood and leader of Solihull Council’s official opposition party, described as ‘unfair and illogical’ changes which ‘raid the back pockets of the most vulnerable. He said: “If the Conservatives enact this plan, it’ll mean they put the council tax of the most vulnerable up by the cost of 18 loaves of bread a month, but everyone else’s up by the cost of just one loaf of bread. Putting more pressure on the most vulnerable will only mean they have to use council and health services more, which will just cost tax-payers more in the long run”.

Historically, national council tax benefit regulations were managed by the Government. However, in April 2013 this was abolished and Westminster handed over control of council tax support – also known as council tax reduction (CTR) – to local authorities.

Lauren Clarke now reports that a solicitor acting on behalf of a borough resident, who would face a council tax rise of more than £100 a year, complained to the council

In a letter leaked to the Observer, the lawyer from the Central England Law Centre, raised ‘significant concern about the nature and extent of the information provided in the online consultation document.’

The lawyer argued the ‘flaws’ in the initial consultation rendered it ‘unlawful’ and urged the council to amend the ‘deficiencies’ in the consultation material, notify all those who had responded to the consultation of the changes, and extend it.

Solihull Council’s consultation into increasing council tax has been extended and re-launched. A final decision will be made by the full council in December and any changes to the scheme will take effect from April 2017.

bham commlaw centre logoThe work of the Central England Law Centre is so important in a climate where many feel that – after long delays on phone and grappling with obscure, frequently redesigned municipal websites – in the words of Pete North:

“Somewhere along the line we stopped being citizens and became livestock to be managed by people appointed over us, who we must pay for, without ever having consented – and without democratic recourse. To even question the wisdom of our rulers is impertinent. Our complaints go into a black hole, and while we can vote in another councillor, we cannot fire the council CEOcracy who stay in post for years, accumulating obscene pensions and payouts”.