Local authorities cannot be expected to shoulder financial burdern
Plaid Cymru has welcomed the announcement by the Welsh government to review the long-term options for council tax support in Wales.
Following a sustained campaign from Plaid Cymru, almost 330,000 council tax benefit recipients in Wales were protected from a ten per cent cut in their entitlement this year after the Welsh government agreed to Plaid Cymru’s proposal to fund the shortfall created by the UK Government devolving responsibility for council tax support with a £22million cut in the budget.
Despite seven months of campaigning from Plaid Cymru, led by Local Government Spokesperson Rhodri Glyn Thomas, Assembly Members were recalled from their Christmas recess in December last year to vote on the Welsh government’s proposed council tax benefit scheme which passed on the 10 per cent cut to benefit recipients.
In January 2013, the Welsh government agreed with Plaid’s proposal to protect the almost 330,000 households which received council tax benefit and look for a longer term, more sustainable approach for the future.
This week Local Government Minister Lesley Griffiths has announced she has commissioned a review to examine the options for council tax support from 2015-16 onwards.
Assembly Member Rhodri Glyn Thomas said he welcomed the review that Plaid Cymru called for last year, but warned the Welsh government that local councils are not in a position to pick up the tab for council tax benefit in future.
Plaid Cymru’s Local Government Spokesperson, Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM said:
“Plaid Cymru welcomes the Minister’s review of council tax support for the long term. This is something I called for last year during my campaign to protect almost 330,000 Welsh households from cuts to their benefit entitlement.
“We are pleased the Welsh government recognised the need to protect these most vulnerable, and we are pleased there is further recognition from the Minister that a sustainable and fair scheme needs to be implemented soon. However the Minister needs to recognise that local councils can’t shoulder this additional financial burden.
“As this review for 2015 onwards gets underway, our priority must be to look at the next financial year and how council tax benefit claimants can be best protected until the new scheme comes into force. This is particularly important in the context of greater and more wide-ranging cuts in other welfare entitlements.
“The Welsh government has clearly learned lessons from last year’s fiasco as it has decided to start a discussion on the future arrangements in good time. We look forward to scrutinising the proposals for the next financial year and we will work positively with the Welsh government where we can.
“Plaid Cymru wants to see a fair and uniformed approach to council tax support in Wales which doesn’t result in a postcode lottery such as that being seen in England. If the Welsh government too wants a relief scheme which is fair to all claimants in Wales it cannot expect local councils, which are already struggling to cope with significant cuts, to fund the new scheme.”