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Council Tax cuts

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Monday 4 February 2013 4.06am
Katia wrote:
Do the new rules mean that Southwark Council demands 15% of the council tax from people previously not paying any? It is unlikely that people who were judged too poor to pay will suddenly find an extra 20 or whatever it is a month - how much are bailiffs? Will Southwark Council actually get any of the money they are trying to get? How many low-income households have to manage to pay to make up for the cost of hounding those that don't?

All those currently receiving full council tax benefit will have to pay bar age pensioners.

Those on benefits will find that following recent changes, council will STEAL by withholding this impost from your benefit without consent - yes they can now do this, so paperwork will you get but no bailiff required!
Monday 4 February 2013 9.18am
How does the "tax on spare rooms" fit in with this as well-the so called bedroom tax. If you are on benefits and have a pare room and are a council or housing association resident will this be on top of the housing benefit cut?
Monday 4 February 2013 9.27am
if they withold the council tax shortfall from benefits like JSA and Incom support etc- there will be riots and no doubt an upsurge in petty crime as people will be stealing food to survive

Oh my... what is to come
Monday 4 February 2013 4.46pm
Some pertinent information from the papers for tonight's Southwark overview and scrutiny committee:

- Welfare reform briefing

- Analysis of average annual loss of benefit in Southwark from 01/04/2013 by ward

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Tuesday 5 February 2013 9.31am
Katia wrote:
How big is Southwark Council's shortfall? When spread among everybody who currently pays council tax, how much would each of us pay? I believe the councils are not allowed to simply increase everybody's bill. I presume it is too expensive to have a referendum; I imagine most people would (maybe grudgingly) pay a bit more rather than squeeze it out of people who can't pay.

Hi Katia,

The shortfall is 2.8m. Interestingly, this is equivalent to the combined remuneration received by the seven most highly-paid officials working for Southwark Council. Duncan Whitfield, the Strategic Director of Finance and Corporate Services who signed the letter telling us we all must pay Council Tax, in 2010-11, received 163,770. That's more than the Prime Minister.

I see that people are writing to Simon Hughes, but would point out that he's an important member of the Government that's doing this to us. (The last time we spoke, in 2009, he ended by saying the problem was we had a Tory Government masquerading as Labour. Well, now we've got real Tories whose power depends upon the party of which slimy Simon is Chairman.) I shall be writing to Duncan Whitfield, demanding that he justify his preposterous salary, and will copy our MP.

In fact, this week, I will undertake to write to several of Southwark's Executives and will copy the letters to this thread in the hope of inspiring others to do the same. We can't expect politicians to help us, but through a determined campaign of non-compliance, perhaps we can oblige Southwark's overpaid officers to find other ways of saving money (sacking themselves being my preferred solution!).
Wednesday 6 February 2013 1.51pm
Russell Cronin wrote:
...I shall be writing to Duncan Whitfield, demanding that he justify his preposterous salary

This is the letter I've sent today to Duncan Whitfield, Southwark Council's Strategic Director of Finance and Corporate Services. I'll let you know when/if there's a reply.

Dear Duncan Whitfield,

I have received your letter, dated 21 January 2012, informing me that I will have to pay at least 15% of my Council Tax from April fools' day, even though I am unemployed and live on benefits. You say that I must pay, 'due to the council being unable to make up the shortfall in the amount of funding they have from the government'. As it is means-tested, Council Tax Benefit is only paid to the poorest, but you claim that the only way the Council can make ends meet is to make poor people pay.

Meanwhile, your own remuneration for the year 2010-11 was 163,770.

I know how much you earned thanks to The TaxPayers' Alliance annual Town Hall Rich List, which details the salaries of the fattest cats in councils across the country. I see that the remuneration collectively enjoyed by Southwark's seven most highly-paid officials in 2010-11 came to a total of fractionally more than 2.8 million. Coincidentally, 2.8 million is the figure you put on the financial shortfall in the borough of which you are Strategic Director of Finance and Corporate Services.

I do not suggest that Southwark should bridge its funding gap by sacking you and your plutocratic colleagues. That would be simplistic and, no doubt, you all have cast iron contracts. I'm sure you will argue that you do valuable work, but is it really worth more than the Prime Minister gets? How, in this era of austerity, can your colossal salary be justified? What are your qualifications and responsibilities, exactly, and why can't they be performed by any professional accountant?

In addition to the named seven whose remuneration exceeded that of the PM in 2010-11, Southwark had a further score of employees who each receive more than 100,000. In fact, these 27 Southwark grandees received more than 5 million. In order to perpetuate this state of affairs, you propose to pick the pockets of the poorest in the Borough. This is not the situation in other boroughs. Tower Hamlets won't charge its 26,000 low-income households. Wandsworth says it will not charge its poorest residents, because the cost of legal bills to recover the monies from persistent non-payers would be too high.

Indeed, it is inevitable that those who can't pay won't pay. As Patrick Wintour, political editor of The Guardian, noted on 3 January, 'this raises the prospect of some councils needing to pursue non-payers through the courts to recover bills that may be as little as 2 a week.' He quotes Peter Kenway, director of the New Policy Institute, saying: "Come April we will have the grotesque spectacle of councils without a penny to spare pursuing citizens without a penny to spare through the courts for a tax that until now they have been deemed too poor to pay."

Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, reiterated this when he told Huffington Post: "The new system will result in hard-pressed councils spending scarce resources chasing some of the poorest people in the country for non-payment."

According to expert and informed opinion, the strategy that you are paid more than the Prime Minister to direct is doomed to failure. This raises the question of how your policy will be judged and its effectiveness quantified? At what point will you accept that your misconceived and immoral policy of stealing from the poorest in order to keep paying yourself a fortune is a disaster and resign?
Wednesday 6 February 2013 1.55pm
Russell Cronin wrote:
I will undertake to write to several of Southwark's Executives and will copy the letters to this thread in the hope of inspiring others to do the same.

Looking into how much the top executives of Southwark Council are paid, there does appear to have been some re-structuring & departmental consolidation.

Eleanor Kelly was appointed Chief Executive in July 2012, following nearly four years in the post of Deputy Chief Executive. In 2010-11, anticipating her elevation to the top job, Ms Kelly enjoyed a pay rise of nearly 12%, to 198,570. However, it seems that she's not been replaced as Deputy, so the salary of her predecessor, Annie Shepperd, which was cut 13% in 2010-11 to 195,510, has been saved.

As chief executive, Mrs Kelly chairs the council's corporate management team (CMT) which is made up of the four strategic directors of council departments:

Romi Bowen, Strategic Director of Children's Services and Adult Services, took a pay cut of 8.94% in 2010-11, to 166,367, but back then she strategically directed only Children's services, not Adults'. No doubt, with the added responsibility, comes more money!

Gerri Scott, Strategic Director for Housing Services and Community Services, was preceded in the job by 'G.Davies' who, as 'Strategic Director of Environment and Housing' in 2009-10 was remunerated to the tune of 184,281, decreasing in 2010-11 to a meagre 177,924. No wonder G.Davies quit!

Deborah Collins, Strategic Director of Environment and Leisure earned 181,277 in 2010-11, when she was 'Strategic Director of Communities, Law & Governance'.

Duncan Whitfield, Finance and Corporate Services Director was paid 163,770 in 2010-11.

Collectively, these five team members administrate Southwark Council's budget, as laid out in its Budget Book 2012/13 according to seven budget principles, as follows:

At a time of unprecedented cuts proposed by central government, the budget should continue to prioritise the commitments made by the Cabinet and its vision to create a fairer future for all by promoting social and economic equality in an economically vibrant borough.
We recognise that some services currently provided by the Council may be lost, and some may change. However, we will do all that we can to protect our frontline services and support our most vulnerable residents.
We will ensure that the services which the Council delivers provide value for money, value for council tax payers and contribute towards delivering our vision of creating a fairer future for all in Southwark.
We will explore alternative ways of providing a service prior to proposing any cut or reduction. This will include talking to partner organisations, the voluntary sector, the trade unions, the business community and other local authorities.
We will be transparent with any specific group or groups of users who may be affected by any cut or reduction in service provision as soon as possible and explore with them other ways to provide the service. We will conduct an equalities impact assessment for our budget proposals.
Before proposing any cut or reduction we will have a clear and comprehensive explanation for why that service should be cut, reduced or no longer provided by the Council, and this explanation should be capable of being subject to robust challenge.
Budget proposals should be based on a three year approach and should have regard to innovative ways of providing services and maintaining employment in the borough

I think the policy of making the poorest pay clearly contravenes several of these principles and over the next day or two, I'll be writing to Ms. Kelly to say so.
Wednesday 6 February 2013 9.22pm
Russell Cronin what planet are you on? We ALL are being asked to pay more why should be people on benefits be exempt from the current situation ?
Wednesday 6 February 2013 9.24pm
Council Tax is just small part of it. People who are fortunate to be working are paying alot of extra taxes
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