In a quick break during last night’s everlasting planning committee meeting, WALTER CRONXITE crunched some numbers for the next round of Council Tax, and finds the Labour-run authority has been boxed into a vote-losing corner
Theresa May’s Tory Government has effectively decided to increase Council Tax in Croydon by 5per cent next year, and will lump on at least a further 3per cent in 2018, just ahead of the next Town Hall elections, in the latest cynical exercise in buck-passing for essential services and provision of care for the elderly and vulnerable.
In all, it could mean Council Tax in Croydon will rise by more than 11per cent over three years, a steaming political turd for council leader Tony Newman and his “ambitious” Labour group which currently controls the Town Hall.
Having failed to allocate adequate funding for adult social care in the Autumn Statement last month, unelected Prime Minister May has opted to “allow” local authorities to raise extra cash by increasing Council Tax by an additional 3per cent, as announced yesterday by Gavin Barwell’s boss at the local government department, Sajid Javid.
London Councils, the capital-wide, cross-party organisation of all 33 borough and City of London authorities, says that even the 3per cent precept increase is “an inadequate response that would raise less in the areas that need it most”.
Ray Puddifoot, who is the leader of Tory-run Hillingdon Council and the London Councils’ spokesman on social care, was critical of the Government plan. “You can’t raise enough money across London” through the precept. “It needs an injection to catch up with the rising population,” he said.
Government funding for London boroughs is “insufficient”, according to Puddifoot.
It was a criticism made by council leaders and trades unionists across the country. The Government’s response is “like putting plaster on a patient that needs a triple bypass”, according to the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson.
“Government will say today they are giving more money for social care,” he wrote. “We have £90million cuts, but they will let us raise an extra £1.5million. Not enough!”
To add insult to the various injuries already suffered as a consequence of the Tory Government’s decisions on adult social care funding, Westminster yesterday announced that it will reduce direct funding to Croydon Council by a further £1.9million – while at the same time handing Tory-supporting Surrey County Council next door an extra £3million. Clearly, the good folks of Epsom and Limpsfield have more pressing social needs than the people of Thornton Heath and Purley.
Newman has branded that decision as “disgraceful”.
In the meantime, Newman might also wonder whether spunking nearly £500,000 of council money over three years on some insignificant cycle races (yes, he’s determined to repeat the event again in 2017), or a £200,000 spend with a mate’s public relations firm for the Fairness Commission, or the £480,000 over three years that he has committed to handing to Boozepark, really might have been better used elsewhere in the Town Hall’s ever-diminishing budget.
In his announcement yesterday, Javid revealed that as well as picking Croydon Council’s pockets, the Government will also be delivering a knee into the Town Hall’s nether regions, taking money from the New Homes Bonus to help pay for its under-funding of social care. It was almost as if he had been briefed by his housing minister, Croydon Central MP Barwell, on what to do to cause the greatest possible political discomfort to the council leadership in south London.
The New Homes Bonus allows the Government to match the Council Tax raised on each new home built for a period of six years. As Croydon is a high growth area for housing, this change will put a serious dent in any plans the council might have been making.
And the Government knows very well that the funding-starved local authorities have no alternative but to make the Council Tax increase to help fund their under-pressure social care programmes, just as Croydon did earlier this year with a 1.9per cent maximum allowed Council Tax increase coupled with the 2016 2per cent social care precept.
Add that on top of a 3per cent precept in 2017 and, let’s say, another 1.9per cent increase from the council leadership, and 2018’s 3per cent social care precept, and you have a total Council Tax increase over three years of 11per cent, just in time for the local elections.
Hardly the sort of message Newman would want to take to the electorate.
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