What I am hoping to do is persuade (there is a free vote) my fellow Labour Councillors on Monday to:-
(1) vote to increase Council tax by 1.99% for this year (which has not been increased for 9 years and is still less than expected inflation for this year) which will set up two hardship funds for Newham families affected by Tory cuts to Council tax benefits and housing benefit curbs.
(2) Also levy a 2% Council Tax precept for extra money specifically to help tackle the Adult Social Care Crisis and bed blocking in our local NHS hospitals.
If a simple majority of Councillors support this amendment then it "pauses" the budget for the Mayor to "reflect upon" the proposed change and consider bringing back his own amendment at a second meeting. You need a two thirds majority of Councillors to overturn his proposal at that meeting, I really hope that we can come to an agreement over this with the Mayor.
While we cannot reverse Central Government Tory cuts on the vulnerable and low paid families in Newham, we can try and mitigate it as best we can.
"The increase in council tax will enable the Council :-
- to establish a Hardship Fund of £750,000 for Council Tax Reduction scheme claimants in Newham;
- to establish a Discretionary Housing Payment “top-up” fund of £750,000 to better help those affected by the Government’s lower Benefit Cap.
- That 8,949 Council Tax Reduction scheme claimants in Newham were in arrears in 2015/16, and that 5,386 of those with served with a court summons for late-payment, and 1,560 had bailiffs instructed against them;
- Several London boroughs have either chosen not to introduce a Minimum Payment (charge) for CTR claimants or exempt disabled claimants or establish “Hardship Funds” for those in financial difficulty;
- According to the Department for Work & Pensions, the lower Benefit Cap will adversely affect around 800 families in Newham, leaving some of those with such serious rent shortfalls that they may fall into arrears and face eviction and homelessness;
- In 2016/17, DWP allocated Newham £1.552 million in Discretionary Housing Payment funding to help those facing the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap, and a similar sum is expected in 2017/18;
- In nearby Tower Hamlets, a fund of up to £1 million is being established in 2017/18 to “top-up” the Government’s DHP pot.
- The number of Council Tax Reduction scheme claimants falling into arrears and facing enforcement action makes it clear these charges are an unbearable strain on Newham’s poorest households, and that a Hardship Fund is needed;
- The Government’s Discretionary Housing Payment funding is not sufficient to cover the rent shortfalls of tenants hit by the Bedroom Tax and the lower Benefit Cap, and that Newham should top this pot up from the General Fund.
- The agreement to accept the governments offer to set an Adults Social Care Precept will increase the boroughs ability to support residents with their social care needs and prevent strain on our much needed local NHS resources
- Delete recommendation 1. And replace with:-Agree the Council’s General Fund Budget Requirement for 2017/18 be set at £233 million
- Delete recommendation 4 and replace with :- Agree to accept the Government’s offer to set an Adults Social Care Precept of 2% on Council Tax in 2017/18
- Delete recommendation 6 And replace with:-Agree the Newham Council element of Council Tax for 2017/18 be increased by 1.99% This results in a local element Band D level of £964.44
- Agrees to establish:
- Delete 1. And replace with: Agree that the Newham Council element of Council Tax for 2017/18 be increase by 1.99% This results in a local element Band D level of £964.44
- Delete 3. And replace with: Agree to accept the Government’s offer to set an Adults Social Care Precept of 2% on Council Tax in 2017/18