For a council leadership that seeks publicity in local newspapers for its compasion for the poor, Labour-led Leeds City Council aren’t half putting the boot into them instead. For the second year in a row they are cutting council tax benefit for most working-age claimants, instead of the 19% of the tax they have had to pay from this year, they will now have to pay 26%.
A council tax benefit claimant
Let us remember why people are on this benefit. Its not because they have huge piles of money lying around or expensive houses, its because they have very little money, either on other income-related benefits or working so few hours they need council tax and housing benefits to make ends meet.
Many of those who receive this will have also been stung by the bedroom tax, a policy this council won’t even make the most minimal of concessions over by adopting a no evicitions policy. Tens of thousands across the city simply weren’t able to pay their council tax this year, leading to the council to issue mass summonses to court, prior to which those in arrears were put into rooms with council officers to bully them into forgoing heating or food to pay this bill. No wonder food banks seem to be springing up so fast.
The council is continuing its tradition of cynical survey’s of those it seeks to pass the governments cuts onto, this time giving them a choice of reductions to benefits or being responsible for further cuts to public services in the city. This is a false choice, the council does not have to pass on the cuts, it could use it reserves or borrowing powers, let alone attempting to build a campaign for the necessary funding as councils in Poplar in the 1920s and Liverpool in the 1980s did succesfully.
With almost every act, Leeds’ Labour councillors show how far that party has moved from defening the interests of workers and the poor. In next years May elections, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates will be standing up and down the country, including in Leeds, on a no cuts platform to fight for jobs and services giving a real alternative to the Tories austerity and their mini-me Labour councillors.