A petition of 700 signatures opposing cuts to council tax benefit collected from across Brighton and Hove was presented to the council yesterday. The Socialist Party organised a lobby outside the council building to show our opposition to this cut and to all cuts.
The money that pays for council tax benefits is being cut by the government next April, in an effort to transfer more of the burden onto the shoulders of the poor (many of whom are in work, so the benefit makes up for low wages and minimal hours). In August it was reported that an 81 year old woman from Hove was jailed for 10 days for not paying her council tax, and last year 40 bailiff visits took place per day across Brighton and Hove. It is estimated that up to half the revenue raised by cutting the benefit will be spent on enforcement! What lengths will the council resort to in collecting this money?
The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that this cut will create conditions similar to the poll tax of the late 1980's and early 1990's. Thatcher expected people to pay the same tax regardless of their circumstances, in a move calculated to strangle local government finance and turn councils against the local population.
Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party) played the central role in organising a mass campaign of non-payment, backing those who could not pay and those who refused to pay with nationally co-ordinated and organised direct action. A Guardian article reports local authorities anticipate half of residents who will be expected to pay in April next year, will refuse to.
We have always argued that without a campaign against the cut in the budget and without a campaign for a budget that reflects the needs of the city (not the cuts of the government), the Greens would find themselves the reluctant administrators of the cuts. In collecting the signatures for this petition time and again we encountered the lost expectation that the Greens would stand against the government cuts.
In his speech to the council Paul Moorhouse made it clear that councilors have a choice to stand up to this government and wage a campaign for the return of central government funding. There is no magic button that councilors can press, but they are in a position to help build movements which can shake the government. The lack of a party nationally pledging to reverse the cuts is a big problem, and the Socialist Party in coalition with others are trying to build such a party that is rooted in the campaigns of the working-class and the poor (www.tusc.org.uk).
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