On Thursday evening (30th November), it was announced that plans to cut Bristol’s Council Tax Reduction scheme were to be scrapped, in a major u-turn by Bristol City Council.
This is a huge victory for 23,000 low income households in Bristol, some of who were at risk of being pushed into debt during the cost of living crisis if cuts to the scheme went ahead.
The announcement was made on the Mayors blog by deputy mayor, Cllr Craig Cheney, who stated that “now is not the time” to make the proposed £3 million cut to the scheme, which awards low income households with a reduction, or in some cases an exemption, to their council tax bill.
This comes after a hard-fought campaign against the cuts by community union, ACORN Bristol, who argued that the cuts would be socially harmful, cutting a vital lifeline for thousands of families across the city during the cost of living crisis, and would be a false economy, costing the city more in housing support, social care, health and administration.
ACORN member, William, said: "If the Council Tax Benefit was abolished I would have had to pay another £1,563 a year; that’s £130 each month for a Band A one bed flat. I’ve been homeless before, and cutting the Council Tax Reduction scheme would likely have forced me towards that again.”
The campaign mobilised residents across the city, starting with public outreach (including door knocking and stalls), turning out people to complete the council’s consultation, a legal challenge, and protests, rallies and disruption of council meetings when ignored.
The scheme was saved from cuts in 2017 following a similar campaign by ACORN, resulting in up to £50 million to date staying in the pockets of those who most in need.
Sam Kidel, ACORN Bristol organiser said: “23,000 Bristolian families who otherwise would have been pushed ever further towards food banks, overwhelming debt and homelessness can breathe a sigh of relief this Christmas.”
“It’s disappointing that for the second time in 6 years Mayor Marvin Rees, who champions the idea of working with communities, has thrown away the opportunity to work with community organisations of low income people.”
“This proves once again that ACORN is the only option for communities abandoned and betrayed by politicians who sell us out and care only for their own interests.”
“Our members said they would not stand for it, we would fight until this vital benefit was safe, that we would fight for every child who's cold at home this winter, for every parent who's been forced to a food bank or cried over a bill. And once again, we have done that.”
“This shows the power of ordinary people standing together and looking after each other."
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