At today’s meeting of the full council at County Hall, I moved a motion to exempt young care leavers from Council Tax as a way of helping them to move successfully into independence. The motion is in support of the Children’s Society campaign to give care leavers a fair start.
Here is the text of my speech:
Thank you Mr Chairman
This is my first opportunity to speak in this chamber and it is a privilege to be able to move this motion.
Members will all be aware of the problems we have encountered with some of the services provided for teenagers moving from care to independence.
They may be less aware of the work now being done by staff and by members to put that service on a more sustainable footing.
This motion is presented in the spirit of that work as we look for meaningful ways to make a difference for some of our most vulnerable young people.
It is part of a campaign by the Children’s Society and has won cross party support in other councils. In fact I can hardly do better than quote the leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, writing on that august journal of record, ConservativeHome.com.
“For most care leavers there are no family or financial resources to fall back on. They need as much help as possible to start climbing the ladder. It would be fantastic to see every Conservative council in England give this exemption. Leading the way, so it becomes an England wide council tax exemption, irrespective of political control.”
The Centre for Social Justice says that well over half of care leavers face challenges when it comes to managing money. This is one way Councils can make the transition to independence slightly easier and would send a clear signal about how seriously we take our role as corporate parent.
In case anyone is concerned I do want to acknowledge that we do understand the limits to our powers as a county council. So we ask the council to take a lead in Norfolk in working with Districts to make these changes.
We have spent plenty of time arguing with other councils about who should pocket the swag from second home council tax and here we have a chance to be clear about our sense of priorities. To make a difference for a group of young people who will be struggling to set themselves up in their first home in circumstances where they enjoy very few privileges.
I urge the whole council to support it.