Desperate to take control of the Vale of Glamorgan Council in 2012 – the Labour Party made an extravagant and unaffordable promise to give all pensioners in the Vale of Glamorgan aged over 70 a “discount” on their Council Tax.
In the May 2012 local council election campaign the Labour Party promised that the new “discount” would apply to “all households in which there was a resident aged 70-or-over who was not already receiving benefits.”
However, after the 2012 election was over, and Labour had won control of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, it then astonished voters by reneging on its pre-election pledge.
Despite the fact that the new discount had been promised in its election literature, the Labour-controlled administration in the Vale flatly denied – point-blank – that it had ever had any intention whatever of introducing a Council Tax discount for over-70s.
In January 2013 council staff had the embarrassing job of writing to any local residents who complained that Labour was breaking its promises – and telling them “There are no discounts applicable for households with a person over the age of 70 and no future plans to introduce this.”
The real reason the Labour administration had to deny all knowledge of its pre-election bribe was that no one, before the election , had actually worked out what the “Council Tax Discount” was actually going to cost – not even on the back of a fag-packet.
What Labour had done – without working out the potential cost – was to carelessly promise a discount to every household which had someone aged over 70 in it who wasn’t claiming any benefits. ……It turned out that there were thousands of them. The Vale was awash with dwellings where elderly parents happily lived with grown up children and grandchildren. If introduced, the Council Tax Discount would – in theory – have applied to thousands of such properties
Disgruntled pensioners complained to the Vale Council that the Labour administration was breaking its promises. Under pressure, the Labour councillors – who had panicked at the probable cost of their wild pre-election promise – then invented a new and very different Council Tax Discount scheme with rigid new rules which would automatically disqualify most of the households in Penarth and the Vale of Glamorgan which would previously have included.
A new public statement was issued by the Vale Labour administration saying “A scheme to assist the over 70s with their Council Tax will be implemented, however the final details of the scheme have not yet been finalised.”
When the amended scheme’s “final details” eventually did emerge they were nothing like that original pre-election pledge. The eligibility criteria were far more restrictive.
Under the re-written scheme Labour stipulated that the Council Tax discount would apply ONLY if it was “the person over 70 who actually pays the council tax bill ” – a change which effectively ruled out thousands of households in Penarth and the Vale in which an over-70-year-old lived with their families but wasn’t personally responsible for paying the council-tax.
These new – much tighter rules – reduced the Labour council’s commitment to – at the most – only 8, 000 households bringing the potential cost down to just £350,000 a year
The Council Tax discount was then set at a figure of only £40 per year – regardless of how much Council Tax was paid. The cost of that tiny sum was soon swallowed-up as Labour hiked overall Vale of Glamorgan Council Tax in a series of huge inflation-busting increases – year after year after year.
Now the derisory £40 annual Council Tax discount to over 70s – with all the restrictions which made it unclaimable by most pensioners – is being discontinued by the new Conservative administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Council
Only a single Labour councillor – Sandra Perkes (Court Ward Barry) – rose to challenge the decision to drop the tiny discount in this week’s Vale Council meeting.
She claimed “Nearly 10,000 households in the Vale of Glamorgan will lose the £40 reduction in their Council Tax introduced by the previous administration. As austerity bites even harder, will the Leader reconsider his decision and reinstate this vital support for our older residents?”
The leader of the Council Cllr John Thomas told Cllr Perkes that the £40 Council Tax discount had not been “ means-tested” . He said that the council had to make “difficult decisions with regard to how money is being spent due to the on-going pressure on our budgets and the provision of a universal benefit in this way cannot be seen as the most effective use of the funding available for this council. I would confirm that my administration is committed to providing support to those most in need in our community and will strive to do this with the assistance of communities and other organisations that work with us. “
Cllr Perkes asked Cllr Thomas whether he agreed with her that it was time for “local authority leaders to lobby Central Government to end the economic policy of austerity which is severely hurting the most vulnerable in our society.”
Cllr Thomas responded “I think when you look at austerity you’ve got to look at the reason for austerity – that the previous government left the pot empty as far as money is concerned. Few savings have been made over recent years due to austerity. This council has saved over £50,000,000 over recent years . I don’t agree with you that we should be campaigning against austerity.”
Cllr Thomas went on to say “I do believe this council should be funded more fairly from Welsh [Labour] Government “ . There were cries of protest from Labour councillors and “Here-here” from Conservative councillors .
Cllr Thomas went on to say “…Well, Welsh Government are the ones which divide up the pot – and we don’t get our fair share of that pot in the Vale of Glamorgan”