WALTER CRONXITE reports on the inevitable consequence of Tory government cuts to Croydon Council
With the local elections just weeks away, Croydon’s council leader says that he has decided to be honest.
“We are being honest with residents about Council Tax,” Tony Newman said in announcing that Croydon residents will face a local taxation hike of £1.50 per week from April.
In reality, Council Tax is set by the Government, which decides on the (rapidly diminishing) level of grant that goes to local authorities, and then sets a limit on the rate of increase councils like Croydon can apply to civic tax-raising in order to cover the difference and still pay for a range of local services. Newman’s Labour council has opted to increase Council Tax by the maximum allowed.
While Croydon’s Tories went into the last local elections in 2014 offering a cheap money-off stunt, trying to bribe the electorate with their own cash, Newman has bowed to the inevitable after eight years of austerity cuts forced on the council’s budget by Conservative-led central government.
Cumulatively, Croydon Council Tax has risen by a little more than 13 per cent in the four years under Labour control.
Council Tax is now determined in three areas: the local council element, an amount set by the Mayor of London, and an adult social care precept. The latter has already been set at 2 per cent by Westminster, while Sadiq Khan has set the City Hall element at 5.07 per cent, almost all to pay to protect Metropolitan Police numbers. Croydon’s local element of Council Tax, Newman’s Labour group has decided, will rise by 2.99 per cent.
This will now go forward to cabinet and a full council meeting for ratification.
“The council faces huge challenges, with our government funding having been cut by nearly three-quarters since 2010, at the same time as we have a growing population and increasing need for our services,” Simon Hall, Labour’s finance chief, said.
“This Labour council has been focused on providing value for money, protecting frontline services and investing in our future. This year, the Council Tax bill will rise by £1.50 per week. Of this, 27p will be for our police, 49p will be for the old and vulnerable and 74p to protect services and invest.”
Newman said: “This administration is about delivering. Delivering valued frontline services. Delivering growth and investment. Delivering affordable Council Tax.
“When we were elected, we promised below-inflation increases in Council Tax and the local element of Council Tax has risen less than inflation. Across the board, we are delivering and, by contrast with the last Tory council who tried a gimmick on Council Tax four years ago, we are being honest with residents about council tax.”
Inflation, using the Consumer Price Inflation – CPI – accepted measure is at 3 per cent. People’s wages are going up by 2.5 per cent.
Croydon residents will likely be uninterested in how the different components of the Council Tax have been played about with by politicians to disguise increased tax. The bottom line is that what the Croydon Council Tax-payer will pay is going up 5 per cent.
A Band D household in Croydon is paying 13.25 per cent more than in 2014, if they were eligible for the £25 Tory cashback offer/ineffective bribe [delete to distaste] that year. CPI over the same period has risen 5.4 per cent so the Band D Council Tax is up in real terms 7.85 per cent.
The final figures might be tweaked come the council’s Budget meeting, with unexpected extra receipts sometimes allowing a slight late reduction in the increase but overall Council Tax bill for a Band D property, whose 2017-2018 bill of £1,558.93, will go up to £1,636.93 for 2018-2019
Envelopes from the council containing these glad tidings are expected to drop through households’ letter boxes in March. The local elections are on May 3.
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