Council Tax Benefit reforms will pitch young against old, as well as poor against poor

[Co-authored with David Sinclair] The Welfare Reform Bill, currently passing through the House of Lords, has attracted much media attention. The decision to move the committee stages off the floor of the House and into a committee room has led to criticism that the debate on the bill is being ‘squirreled away’. One of the Bill’s most controversial measures is the abolition of Council Tax Benefit as a UK-wide benefit: the benefit will remain in place in practice, but responsibility passes to local authorities to determine the support they give to low-income households in meeting their council tax bills.

At the same time, however, local authorities must also deliver a 10 per cent cut in the total amount spent on Council Tax Benefit in their area. Only pensioners will be protected from this cut. The government has said that it will do this by prescribing ‘the criteria, allowances and awards for council tax support to pensioners which local authorities will need to provide for in their local schemes’.

This policy represents a recipe for intergenerational conflict.

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