I’d like to gather up some factors of things going on at the same time and put them together in one list, to see how contradictory they look side by side:
- The impact of the abolition of council tax benefit on low-income citizens. See the Guardian article on this here.
- Department and Work and Pensions figures which show billions in unclaimed benefits. See the BBC News report on this here. (Amongst many other reports).
If the government took responsibility for this, they would be asking themselves why and how this discrepancy would come about. They may wonder:
- Do we tell people what benefits they are entitled to?
- Do we make our information about benefits accessible to the people who are eligible for them?
- Do we create systems that fit into people’s lives so we give them the support we promise?
- Do we scare people off applying to benefits?
- Are we providing clear enough information so that people who claim benefits can benefit from them and continue to improve their lives through government help?
- Do our departments create too much chaos amongst enough people to put others off claiming benefits they are entitled to?
- Have we created a system that favours people who are not entitled to benefits over those that do, because only those people have the time and peace of mind to find out how to claim and keep claiming without falling into problems with system?
For example, see this article about Working Tax Credits over payments in the Guardian.
Firstly, MPs have reported that 90% of their time is used up helping members of the public try to deal with their difficulties in dealing with government departments.
To clarify some hidden information about Working Tax Credits:
- They work entirely from hearsay, in other words information about hours worked and amount earned that you give them, without asking for evidence.
- By ‘telling us about any changes’ they mean
- Having a month to tell them about a new job, unless
- You changed jobs within 7 Calendar days.
- This is even though you meet the criteria they provide of
- Earning under £22,000 a year.
- Working over 30 or 35 hours a week.
- Having a disability.
- A WTC ‘over payment’ means the whole year’s tax credits they pay you if they find you have changed your job without telling them in the time frame they want (but don’t tell you)
- That all their terms and conditions are only published in their Code of Practice COP26
Council Tax Discrepancies:
It seems to be widely reported that councils send out summons to demand council tax and charging people up to £120 for these, which cost them £3 to produce, and claim these costs are the result of fees to a court, See the Telegraph comment on this here.
While there are billions in unclaimed benefits, then the difficulties with council tax since the government abolished Council Tax benefit, councils are spending on private debt collectors, bailiffs and even using bankruptcy to punish people who don’t pay them the council tax they ask them for.
Private debt collection is used for:
- Council tax arrears
- Working tax credits over payments
- Income tax
- Parking fines
In fact anything they want to use bailiffs or harsher means of collection, they will do, without consideration of the people’s lives.
This is all in light of the billions in unclaimed benefits.
As reported by the BBC, here are the figures for 2009-2010
- Up to 620,000 people failing to claim up to £2bn in income support, and employment and support allowance
- Up to 1.6 million people failing to claim up to £2.8bn in pension credit
- Up to 1.1 million people not claiming up to £3.1bn in housing benefit
- Up to 3.2 million people missing out on up to £2.4bn in council tax benefit
- Up to 610,000 people failing to claim up to £1.95bn in Jobseekers’ Allowance
Yes, it says 3.2 million people missing out on council tax benefit. This has now, of course, been abolished.
The BBC report was made in 2012, where as the Telegraph also reported this back in 201o. There have been plenty of reports about unclaimed benefits, however the government aren’t looking at themselves to ask why this is. Is it because the systems are just too tricky to navigate?
Meanwhile, here is the uncollected council tax:
- £2.4 billion (according to Eric Pickles in 2013)
Therefore, it would be interesting to find out how much councils spend, lose (or how much they add the cost onto members of the public) on council tax collection via:
- Solicitors (or their own internal legal people)
- Court fees (if they do actually pay courts)
- Debt collection agencies
- Insolvency Practitioners
- The Insolvency Service
- Lost money (such as asking tenants to with-hold rent, not claim it into an estate)
- Building societies (when homes get repossessed)
- Auction houses.
- Other services brought in such as police time.
Unpaid council tax, cuts to local services, Working tax credit over payments and unclaimed benefits are all a result of government actions, efficiency levels and communication standards and when they start to look at what they can do to improve the lives of thousands of people, they might find answers by finding out what is really going on from voters themselves, instead of blaming thousands of people for their own mistakes.