I have today written another letter to Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck asking for the assurance that the Council will inform residents that the Council has the power to write off debts, and setting out the mechanism by which this can be done.
Lambeth's main response to cuts by central Government has been to say that they are 'informing residents'. However it does not appear that residents are being given all the information that they need.
Dear Cllr Peck,
Thank you for your email in response to mine regarding evictions.
As I am sure you aware, you are about to implement increases in council tax for some of Lambeth's poorest residents. As your own website states, Lambeth council "was not minded to provide top-up funding from its own resources" when Council Tax Benefit is replaced by the Council Tax Support Scheme. Therefore some of Lambeth's poorest residents will be hit with increases of several hundred pounds a year. Many other Local Authorities have chosen to protect their most vulnerable residents from these increases as local authorities have the power to do this.
As you say in your email, Lambeth Council is providing local people with information to help them cope with these new financial pressures . Could you assure me that in the Council's information provided to local residents telling them about the help that is available to them, you will inform them that the Council has powers to write off debts? Clearly local residents need to know this, and it needs to be explicit in the Council's literature and public information, including on Lambeth Council's website.
Specifically, the council has discretion to write off the tax for vulnerable and impoverished people under clause 10 (1) 13A (1) of the Local Government Finance Act 2012. For this to happen it is necessary for the council tax benefit claimant to write a letter to the council setting out their financial circumstances, all debts, and all relevant information such as health/ disability. Clearly local residents need to know this, and it needs to be made known widely by Lambeth Council. The procedure for residents to do this also needs to be made clear to all those who will face the new council tax increases. I would be grateful for your assurance that they will be informed of this fact.
I look forward to your response.
With all good wishes,
Lambeth Green Party