It is official, because according to Eric Pickles, the Conservative Cabinet minister in charge of local government, Conservative-run Croydon has the worst record among boroughs in England for managing its own Council Tax.
There are 326 local authority councils in England, and only three cities – Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester, all with larger populations than our town – have amassed more uncollected Council Tax than Croydon’s
In a parliamentary answer given this week by Pickles’ department, presumably intended to hurt the Labour party campaigns ahead next week’s local council elections being held outside London, the Conservatives in charge of Croydon Council have found themselves highlighted again as the financial incompetents of local government.
The figures cover the period to the end of the 2011-2012 financial year. They see Croydon, after six years under Mike Fisher’s Tory group, overtaking Lambeth in the Council Tax hall of shame.
That switch in positions is largely because Lambeth managed to reduce its debt of uncollected Council Tax by £6.9 million from the previous year. That leaves “only” another £41.1 million for Brixton Town Hall to catch up on.
But in neighbouring Croydon in the same period, uncollected Council Tax went up by £1.35 million.
Croydon’s performance is also worse than inner London boroughs such as Hackney, Haringey and Tower Hamlets.
“Every penny of council tax that is not collected means a higher council tax for the law-abiding citizen who does pay on time,” said Pickles’s junior minister, Brandon Lewis, in providing the figures (though apparently unaware that in the United Kingdom, there are no “citizens”).
“These figures show that there is a significant source of income for councils, which councils could use to support frontline service or cut council tax bills,” Lewis said in a message to Croydon’s ruling Tories, who have managed to increase Council Tax this year while continuing to cut services.
Sara “Book Token” Bashford, a former teaching assistant who is the Croydon cabinet member responsible for such matters, told Monday’s full council meeting at the Town Hall that the council’s collection rate was now at its best ever, and that much of the unpaid Council Tax was “historical”.
So that’s alright then.
- From 2012: Uncollected Council Tax reaches £42.2m in Croydon
- From 2011: Croydon tries to deceive on its £40m uncollected Council Tax
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
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