HC Deb 24 April 2001 vol 367 c161
8. Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

If he will make a statement on the council tax benefit subsidy payable to Worcestershire county council. [157188]

The Minister for Local Government and the Regions (Ms Hilary Armstrong)

Council tax benefit subsidy is paid by the Department of Social Security to billing authorities. Therefore, as a major precepting authority, Worcestershire county council does not receive council tax benefit subsidy.

Mr. Luff

That disingenuous answer from the Minister covers up the truth, as she well knows. She knows that her Government have monstrously cut the subsidy payable to Worcestershire, and that the roots of the huge increase in council tax—[Laughter.] I am sorry that Labour Members find a 45 per cent. increase in council tax in Worcestershire over the past four years a laughing matter. It is not a laughing matter at all. The roots of that increase lie in the incompetence of the Lib-Lab pact that runs Worcestershire, and in the Government's rigged funding for all shire counties. Is not the cut that the Minister knows her Government have made in council tax benefit subsidy a stealth tax on a stealth tax, which the very poorest can least afford?

Ms Armstrong

The hon. Gentleman is clearly very disappointed that more people in Worcestershire are now working, and are therefore not eligible for council tax benefit. The amount going to all districts in Worcestershire is £12.8 million. That is not a reduction. There is a slight decline in the percentage, because there is a decline in the number of people out of work and benefiting from the subsidy. The hon. Gentleman rails about council tax, and he is right: in Tory counties, council tax is higher than in any Labour county.