Clive Betts, Sheffield South East Labour MP and Chair, Communities and Local Government Select Committee has challenged the Local Government Minister, Bob Neill, to come clean about the Government’s intentions on Council Tax Benefit.
It has now been revealed that local government’s software suppliers had advised that it would be ’simply impossible’ to meet the Government’s timetable, meaning that councils could face picking up a £480m bill.
Clive Betts said; “The government’s proposals to localise council tax benefit whilst, at the same time, cutting the overall budget for council tax benefit by 10%, will undoubtedly hit unemployed families and individuals very hard.
“Last October, the all-Party Select Committee said that giving councils only until March 2013 to design and implement new schemes imposed a significant operational risk.
“The Local Government Minister, Bob Neill, in response to the Select Committee and when challenged in recent debates on the Local Government Finance Bill, has consistently assured MPs that the Government’s timetable could be met without risk.
“However, I have now discovered that the biggest software suppliers had confirmed on January 14th 2012 that the Government’s proposed timetable was simply impossible to achieve.
“It is inconceivable that the Department for Communities and Local Government was not aware of this as, I understand, this was simply a confirmation of earlier warnings.”
Clive Betts continued; “I have now written to Bob Neill asking him whether, at the time of the debates on the Local Government Finance Bill, he was aware of the software suppliers’ statements and whether a copy of their letters had been received in the Department and had been shown to Ministers.
“I think MPs of all parties will be singularly unimpressed if the Minister and his department were aware of this issue, but failed to disclose it in the debates.
“I have also asked him what steps he now intends to take to ensure that local councils are not forced to pick up a £480m bill of the government’s making.”Other news from Sheffield Labour