Clause 8 — Council tax reduction schemes
Bills Presented — Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Relocation to Bristol) Bill
Kevan Jones (North Durham, Labour)
The hon. Gentleman says that that is localism, but it will lead to real issues, especially if the Secretary of State is of the Norman Tebbit variety and thinks that people should get on their bike and work. If there are disincentives because of the different schemes in different parts of the country, it will be difficult for people to do that.
The chaos that will ensue in London will be something to behold. Potentially, there will be 33 different schemes for the administration of council tax benefit in London. From talking to colleagues in London, I know that people move across the council boundaries freely. They do not take into consideration the fact that they are moving from one council to another. Some colleagues tell me that 25% or more of their local electoral register churns over every single year. How will people be clear about what the scheme is in one borough as opposed to another? If we add to this the changes in the Welfare Reform Bill, which will have a disproportionate effect in London and drive people out of higher-cost rental areas, there will be administrative chaos.
Individuals will not be clear about which scheme applies to them and some people will get into arrears with their council tax, as my hon. Friend Mark Tami said when he intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North. We will get to a situation where the number of evictions increases and where people and their children face insecurity about their homes. It will be very difficult for councils that have a large turnover of individuals to collect council tax. There is nothing to compensate authorities that have a large turnover for that effect. There will be a double whammy for those councils: they will face the 10% cut and it will be difficult for them to collect council tax.
We must also consider the difference in the number of people who claim council tax benefit in different authorities. As I said earlier, County Durham has 63,494 claimants, which is 15% of people aged 16 and above. Last year, that cost £55.1 million. The situation will be the same in other large councils in the north-east, and in other areas such as the constituency of my right hon. Friend Mr Howarth. There are a large number of people on either unemployment benefits or low wages who receive council tax benefits. We can compare that with some southern councils, and I will give a few examples. Wokingham—