Plaid Cymru 'alarmed' at council tax benefit cuts hitting Wales' poorest

By agency reporter
December 20, 2012

Plaid Cymru has expressed alarm at cuts to council tax benefits being implemented at Westminster, and has accused the Welsh Government of failing to protect Wales’ poorest households.

The Party of Wales first raised the issue in April 2012, arguing that the Labour-led Welsh Government should follow the example of the Scottish Government and fund the gap of around £24 million for the first year to protect vulnerable families. Greens have agreed on this point.

The 330,000 households who currently receive council tax benefit will now pay council tax, many for the first time, under the schemes after the UK government cut 10 per cent from the total amount of council tax relief available. Some of the amounts of tax being owed will be relatively small from the perspective of local authority tax collection, causing potential difficulties in tax recovery.

The National Assembly for Wales was recalled to debate a new council tax support system regulations after the Welsh Government delayed the introduction of its proposals, giving no time for scrutiny in the Assembly’s ordinary plenary sessions.

If the regulations had not been passed today then there would have been no council tax support for any households, meaning that they would have to pay the full amount whatever their circumstances.

The regulations were passed after the Welsh Government agreed a ‘sunset’ clause which means that they will only be valid for one year and will be reviewed next year.

Plaid Cymru Local Government spokesperson Rhodri Glyn Thomas commented: "These very disappointing circumstances affect 330,000 households in Wales, increasing their council tax bills from April at the same time as benefit cuts - meaning that many will be hit with a double whammy."

He continued: "Proposals to change council tax benefits were first announced in October 2010 and Plaid Cymru warned the Welsh Government back in April that they were well behind schedule in bringing these regulations forward."

"We argued that Wales should follow the Scottish Government and protect our vulnerable households from this extra tax, for the first year at least, by filling the gap ourselves.

"These cuts might come from the Westminster Government originally but they are being passed on wholesale by a Welsh Government who are certainly not standing up for Wales.

"While we are glad that the Welsh Government has accepted that there should be a sunset clause to these regulations, meaning that they must be reviewed, we cannot forgive them for their incompetence on this issue, an incompetence which will hit hundreds of thousands of families already facing a very tough time," said Mr Thomas.

[Ekk/3]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.