Cllr Foulkes said that the tactic of government was to save money to pay off the deficit and that they had to save £3.2 million or find it elsewhere. He said that he didn’t invent the figure, but if they believed in Council Tax Benefit for certain groups it would be implemented.
Paddy said that just because people had mortgages and things were tight didn’t stop them eating and that the changes could cripple people. He said it could be done over a longer period of time and that the deficit was going up.
Cllr Foulkes said it didn’t support it and agreed [with Paddy]. He said he was a Labour councillor and that the way to get out of the depression was to stimulate the economy.
Cllr Harry Smith said that as well as the possible cuts to Council Tax benefit and the issue of spare bedrooms affecting Housing Benefit, that service charges were going to be removed from Housing Benefit and that the current Wirral Partnership Homes service charge for sheltered accommodation was about £13/week. He said that this would affect the poorest in society.
Cllr Foulkes said that rents were no longer going to be paid directly to landlords and that landlords would have to collect the rent, which would be a massive change.
A member of the public asked a question about Council Tax Benefit/Housing Benefit and the means testing system.
The officer said that they wouldn’t get more money next year for new claims, but they would try and divide it as best they can, these decisions were being consulted on as to whether people wanted Council Tax to go up or the debt to fall on the most vulnerable people.
Cllr Foulkes asked if they would still administer Housing Benefit?
The officer said that they would, but there would be changes to reductions for excess rooms, one room would result in 14% less, two rooms 25% less.
A member of the public asked about a family of four who needed this income who were on tax credits and how it couldn’t be looked at in isolation.
The officer said there would be a discretionary fund.
Cllr Foulkes said that people were “blissfully ignorant” and they had “not got a clue” what was coming round. He suggested that they ask all Area Forums to have an expert give a demonstration to tell people what was coming round the corner. He suggested there was a knowledge gap and that an expert making a presentation explaining what it meant for certain families would be useful.
Donnie said that Wirral Partnership Homes had done that with a mailing about the bedroom tax, which had a four page breakdown about what it meant to people.
Cllr George Davies said that pensioners were exempt from the changes, but referred also to the change to Universal Credit.
An officer said they could give six or seven worked examples.
Donnie said that people were not understanding the changes.
Cllr Foulkes said that it was different for tenants with organisations with resources such as Wirral Partnership Homes, but private tenants, community groups and church groups were up a creek and needed to have a semblance of understanding to mitigate the impact of the changes. He also said the appeal and claim process would be made more difficult and if the benefit was lost it would take “ages and ages” to appeal.
Paddy said it was important people had enough “bread and two potatoes” to eat, but what are people going to do? He said it was life and death with people starving and that “we are the plebs”, whereas government ministers were more concerned with what they have with their Beaujolais. He again referred to the crisis loans.
Cllr Harry Smith referred to people having to downsize because of the bedroom situation, but that Wirral Partnership Homes didn’t have enough one-bedroom homes.
Continued at Part 5.