Poorest And Most Vunerable The Hardest Hit : Especially Those NOT Able To Work !!!

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
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Water watchdog demands companies subsidise low-income households ahead of April price hike.

With a rise in water prices set to hit England and Wales from April this year, the Consumer Council for Water has called on water and sewage companies to pour some of their own profits into subsidising low-income households to lessen the bite of growing bills.

The water watchdog said that more help is needed for low-income households ahead of an average 2% water bill rise later this year. The new charges were confirmed by Water UK earlier this week, with the average annual water bill set to reach £415 per household in the 2019/20 financial year.

While companies may either cut bills or increase them below inflation whilst still taking undertaking substantial investment, the price increase will nevertheless be unwelcome for struggling households: for homes in the North West, the average water bill is set to increase by £9 - a rise of 2%.

“Many customers will see their bills rise from April, largely due to inflation," said Tony Smith, Chief Executive of CCWater. "Even just a small increase has the potential to hurt the three million households who tell us they struggle to afford their water bills.

“We’d like to see companies go further by dipping into their own pockets to help customers that are already feeling the pinch," he added, with more than 500,000 low-income households already receiving subsidised water bills through customer-funded social tariffs - schemes reliant on other customers' potentially capricious willingness to fund them.

Despite this, present assistance for customers struggling to afford bills only reaches about a quarter of those who say they need help, leading CCWater to call on other companies to join the likes of United Utilities - who service seven million people across Lancashire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, and Merseyside - in contributing funds to social tariff schemes.

Advising those struggling to meet water costs, CCWater said that those who do not qualify for subsidies can cut bills by switching to a water meter, with most companies offering the chance to try a meter out for two years and switch back for free if they are worse off.

Also offering an online water meter calculator to allow customers to see if they may be better off switching, CCWater is also currently working with companies on their pricing and investment plans for 2020-2025 to ensure they deliver more for customers' money. The regulator Ofwat will make a final decision on each company’s plan in December 2019.
Families facing perfect storm of rises in utility bills.

Energy, water and council tax are all set to go up this year.

The average household will have to pay hundreds of pounds more as a result of rises in the price of energy, water and council tax. Campaigners have said that this will especially affect the thousands of people who are already having difficulty affording to live within their means.

“For most people struggling to make ends meet, every slight price rise takes them closer to the edge of affordability,” said Martyn James from complaints site Resolver. “I’ve seen people forced into the arms of payday lenders to make ends meet, so when these latest price hikes happen, the impact on those already teetering in to the red will be sudden and devastating.”

Eat / heat / roof ... for many , perhaps 2 out of 3 ???
Hammond £5bn short of 'austerity is ending' target, says thinktank.

Institute for Fiscal Studies figures are blow to chancellor’s attempt to keep his promise.

Philip Hammond must find an extra £5bn in this year’s Whitehall spending review to reverse planned cuts and meet his claim of ending austerity, a leading thinktank has revealed.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies told the chancellor that funds pledged in last year’s budget to boost NHS spending, defence and international aid failed to safeguard local councils and some of the worst-hit government departments from further shortfalls.

The thinktank said a minimum of £2.2bn would be needed to freeze all budgets and protect them from inflation, but ministers would need to find an extra £5bn to allow departments to maintain services in line with the UK’s rising population.

Hammond claimed that “austerity is coming to an end” in last year’s autumn budget after better-than-expected tax revenues and a relaxation of his deficit rules allowed him to promise a £30bn boost in public spending by 2024.

Figures from the IFS showing that to match his promise, Hammond needed to find more funds will come as a blow to the Treasury as it prepares the chancellor’s spring statement due on 13 March.

A sharp slowdown in economic growth in recent months is expected force the Treasury’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, to downgrade government tax income and increase expenditure over the next five years.

Brexit uncertainty over the coming weeks is likely to make the situation worse, while the population continues to expand at around 1m people every four years, heaping further pressure on Hammond to find extra funds to meet his promise of ending the austerity programme which began almost a decade ago.

Ben Zaranko, a research economist at the IFS, said provisional plans set out in the autumn 2018 budget revealed cuts in day-to-day spending on public services outside health, defence and overseas aid of about 0.4% a year in real terms and 0.9% per capita.

The budget squeeze will be added to cuts of up to 40% in the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and local government since 2010.

Zaranko said the next round of cuts would be at a much slower pace than seen over the last decade “but would by no means represent an ‘end to austerity’ ”.

Richard Watts, the leader of Islington council and chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “If the government fails to adequately fund local government in the spending review then there is a real risk to the future financial viability of some services and councils.

“Councils were at the front of the queue when austerity started so local services should be at the front of the queue if it is coming to an end.”

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said government claims that austerity was over were unravelling.

“The evidence is mounting that, despite Theresa May’s rhetoric, austerity is not over. Unless Philip Hammond, at the very least, finds another £5bn at the spring statement, departments will be planning for yet more cuts next year.

“Nine years of brutal Tory austerity have wounded our public services and the whole country which relies on them. The chancellor has promised a ‘Brexit bonus’ and any failure to deliver it at the spring statement will be yet more evidence of the Tories’ failure to negotiate a Brexit deal that benefits jobs and the economy.”
EDF Energy is second " Big Six " supplier to raise tariffs to match the Ofgem price cap - with a hike of 10.3% for 1.8m customers

E.On, another major supplier, announced yesterday it was putting up its prices.

EDF is the second biggest supplier in the UK with more than 5m customers.

It has matched its price to the energy price cap, which was announced earlier this month.
DWP seem to be quietly busy plundering the NHS for front line staff (nurses, physios etc) in preparation for something to come related to UC. Couple places have picked up on it, limited information as their going directly after their targets through employment media (linkadin etc)

Guess might be they intend to let the contracts for assessments run and do it all in house.. but that goes completely against what the government usually does (outsource everything). Worth keeping an eye on their clearly up to no good.
Yep ... the suspension of the UC rollout also means the DWP are looking at ALL options ...
both immediate and those which could be introduced ... assessment change of direction ?
Council tax to rise across England as austerity hits hard.

" Chronic underfunding " forces cuts to services including social care, roads and libraries.

Almost all councils in England plan to increase council tax from April and three-quarters intend to raise it above 2.75%, research reveals.

The maximum rise allowed without a local referendum is 2.99%. Similar proportions plan to raise charges and fees.

Despite council tax bills soaring, many residents face further cuts in services. Most councils warned that they would be reducing a range of services, from adult social care to libraries and recycling.

The annual survey by the Local Government Information Unit thinktank found that cuts were increasingly visible and that after eight years of austerity – which has cost English councils 40% of their central funding – half of councils felt cuts were now “negatively affecting relationships with citizens”.

Cuts to services such as pothole repair, waste collection, school crossing patrols and libraries proved especially unpopular, the research found. Last week Somerset and Northamptonshire county councils reversed winter gritting cuts after a public outcry when untreated roads caused several car accidents during the recent cold snap.

One in 20 councils said they were concerned that funding cuts were now so deep that they would struggle to deliver the legal minimum level of services. Almost one in 10 anticipate legal challenges from the public against proposed cuts in service provision.

The survey found 80% of councils have no confidence that the current model of local government finance is sustainable. More than half have drawn down reserves to stay afloat. More than three-quarters have borrowed cash to invest in commercial property in the hope the returns will cover budget gaps.

“Now more than ever we need a thriving, resilient local government sector to weather the storm of national uncertainty, but years of chronic underfunding has left local government on life support,” said the chief executive of the thinktank, Dr Jonathan Carr-West.

Councils are increasingly concerned over the instability of their finances, amid fears that up to 15 authorities may follow Northamptonshire county council into insolvency. Others fear that the cost of balancing the budget will come at the expense of vital services.

Cllr Richard Watts, the chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: “This survey illustrates the severity of the challenge facing councils, with government grant funding at the lowest it has been for decades at the same time as demand for services, such as adult social care, children’s services and homelessness support, has grown.”

Nearly a third of councils (29%) were planning cuts from April in adult social care, 24% plan to reduce children’s care services, 16% to reduce special education and disability support, one in 10 plan to cut homelessness support and nearly a fifth will cut grants to the local Citizens Advice bureaux.

Almost half were planning further reductions in arts and culture (46%), parks and leisure activities (45%), roads (38%), libraries (32%) waste collection (22%) and recycling (11%).

Areas where councils say they will introduce or raise charges include garden and bulky waste collection, parking, leisure facilities, planning, adult social care, electric vehicle charging points, registrar services, cremation and burials, licensing (taxis, venues, landlords), pest control, public toilets, replacement bins, community meals, and council venue hire.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We are investing in Britain’s future by providing local authorities with access to £91.5bn over the next two years to meet the needs of their residents. Authorities are receiving an £1bn extra in funding this coming year to help deliver local services.”


Almost 250k homes in East Midlands living in fuel poverty.

Data from fuel poverty charity National Energy Action suggests that 246,838 households will be unable to “adequately heat their homes” during the winter.

It comes ahead of Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, taking place on February 15, which aims to raise awareness of the “four million households in the UK who cannot afford proper heating for their homes”.

The charity also estimates that, in the East Midlands, 1,260 people died as a direct result of fuel poverty last year.

Adam Scorer, chief executive of the charity, said: “Everybody has the right to live in a warm and safe home but tragically, many people died needlessly last winter because of cold homes.

“Living in a cold damp home can also lead to extremely poor health, especially in those who are vulnerable such as young children, older people, and those with long term sickness and disabilities.”

Gloria De Piero, Labour MP for Ashfield, suggested that this needs to change.

She said: “Around one in 10 households in the UK live in fuel poverty, which is unacceptable in this day and age.

“Eradicating fuel poverty is a statutory target of the government, but the Tories have shown a lack of political will to address the causes.

“We need proper insulation for older properties and we must ensure new ones are built to higher energy efficiency standards.

“The government should also ensure gas prices do not spiral out of control.”

As part of its Fuel Poverty Awareness Day campaign, the charity is also calling for the introduction of a new national ‘clean growth fuel poverty challenge fund’.

Mr Scorer says this will provide “necessary central investment to tackle the cold homes crisis once and for all”.

Ben Bradley, Conservative MP for Mansfield, said the government is working to eradicate fuel poverty.

He said: “No one should live in a cold home.

“The government is addressing fuel poverty in a number of ways, so that it can continue to provide more than two million low-income and vulnerable households with a £140 rebate on their energy bill each winter.

“Winter fuel payments also provide all pensioner households with additional financial support worth up to £300, and cold weather payments provide relief to the elderly, the vulnerable and those in need extra support, during spells of cold weather.”

https://www.spenboroughguardian.co.uk/n ... -1-9597444

Two households a week evicted by Kirklees Council, figures show.

The Local Government Association has warned that households on Universal Credit are having increasing problems paying rent.

The latest Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government data shows that between April 2017 and March 2018, 118 households were evicted from council homes, six fewer than the previous year.

The figure only includes properties recovered with a warrant from court bailiffs.

In Kirklees, there were 105 evictions due to rent arrears, while a further 13 were due to anti-social behaviour.

Kirklees Borough Council has a stock of 22,581 social homes. That means there was an eviction in five out of every 1,000 council owned homes.

Judith Blake, housing spokeswoman for the LGA, said that eviction is the last resort for councils.

She said: “The evidence indicates that arrears increase significantly for households on Universal Credit.

“The Government was right to have announced measures in the budget to partly address this, but it is vital that they work closely with councils.

“The ability of councils to provide extra support to people to keep arrears down is becoming increasingly limited and we also remain concerned about the significant reductions in housing benefit, which can leave households struggling to pay their rent.”

The average social rent in Kirklees is £69.77 per week, lower than the average for England, which is £86.40.

By March 2018, tenants owed the council £2.18 million, excluding council taxes and water or heating bills.

Outstanding debts from former tenants who no longer live in council properties was £750,282.
To survive, councils need more money. But council tax is broken.

Austerity has stripped local services to the bone – and those on the lowest incomes will be forced to pay for it

The most boring and complicated subject in all of public life,” declared William Waldegrave, former minister and an architect of the fateful poll tax, when speaking of local government finance. But this is misleading: the consequences of local government austerity are anything but boring for those on the lowest incomes. The design of the council tax system – and recent reforms to it – hits the poorest hardest. Here’s why.

Since 2010, the central government grant to local government has been cut by almost 60%. This has had a devastating impact on local public services with spending falling in real terms by nearly one-fifth (excluding education and public health) since the start of the decade. So it’s little surprise that council taxpayers in England face substantial increases in their bills, with nearly all councils set to increase them this April.

Council tax was introduced in 1993 as a pragmatic fudge after the political disaster of the poll tax, which forced the poorest to contribute more than they had under the old rates system. Mass protests and riots ensued, as did a widespread campaign of nonpayment. Within seven months of it being introduced in England, Margaret Thatcher was forced to resign and her successor, John Major, quickly announced its abolition and replacement by the council tax.

Since then the council tax system has been left largely unreformed. It is still based on property values from 1 April 1991. As a consequence of this, and of regional variations in house price growth and its original design, council tax has become increasingly unfair. The cheaper your property, the more you are likely to pay as a proportion of its value.

What’s more, the council tax now increasingly resembles the unpopular poll tax which it replaced. The devolution of council tax benefit in 2013, together with the cut in the funding provided for it, means that people on the very lowest incomes are paying council tax for the first time since the poll tax – and bills are rising.

Research by the New Policy Institute found that 90% of councils in England have made changes to their schemes – with nearly a quarter asking working-age, low-income households to make a minimum payment of 20% and another fifth asking for more than 20%. For many, this is simply a return to the poll tax.

Our research at the Institute for Public Policy Research, focused on London, found that the burden of council tax on London’s poorest households is more than six times greater than those on the highest incomes – and that was before the latest round of increases. Nationally, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that 1.4 million additional households now have to pay council tax compared with the pre-2013 system. Around 60% pay more than £100, a third pay more than £200 and nearly one in 10 pay more than £300.

With local services creaking under the pressure of austerity imposed upon them by central government, local councils often have no option but to increase council tax. However, the extra revenue from this and other sources is in itself still not enough to make up for funding reductions and growing demand.

Essential local services from children’s services to social care need more money – the funding gap for 2019-20 alone is estimated to be at least £3.2bn. But asking the poorest in society to shoulder the burden through increasing council tax is not the answer. Yet, incredibly, the government’s Fair Funding Review, which has spent the last 18 months looking at the local government finance system, didn’t examine the structure of the council tax system.

Council tax, like the poll tax before it, is punishing those on the lowest incomes, and it’s time for an overhaul.

In the short term, the government should use general taxation to increase central funding for local government to properly support local services and take pressure off the council tax system. But in the long term, the replacement of council tax with a progressive property tax, accompanied by an effective benefit system that protects those on the very lowest incomes, or even a new land value tax, must be on the table.

In his memoirs, Waldegrave said that through the poll tax he had made this “most tedious of subjects so interesting that it became the cause of widespread riots up and down the land and, one cause of the defeat of a great prime minister”. It’s time we all revived our interest in a subject that is, once more, anything but tedious for the poorest in society.
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