Croydon is rolling out a series of covid-19 financial relief schemes for Council Tax-payers, but just a bit reluctantly, as KEN LEE reports
Residents of the borough can now access a package of support with their Council Tax payments, including a two-month tax “holiday”, because of the coronavirus emergency.
But Croydon Council may have ensured that they still received nearly £20million in payments for April by delaying the announcement of the government’s deferral scheme until this week.
Just as they did with their scheme to waive on-street parking charges for the duration of the pandemic crisis, Croydon Council sneaked out their announcement on the Council Tax reliefs and deferrals, without any great fuss or ballyhoo… with a press release not issued until Tuesday, March 31.
That was almost a week after the government had announced the measure for local authorities across the country, and Croydon’s announcement of the mechanisms for making claims was far too late for most, if not all, Council Tax-payers to apply for and process their two-month tax holiday.
The measure has been introduced to reduce financial pressures on households hit by reduced income during the covid-19 lockdown. For residents living in a typical Band C property, they will be paying around £154 per household in April.
According to the council’s own figures, it receives £193million in a year from Croydon’s Council Tax-payers, most of whom will make their payments spread over 10 monthly instalments.
For a council that has built up a £1.5billion mountain of debt, having £20million dropping into their coffers in the first week of April probably won’t be too unwelcome, as the Town Hall wrestles with its own cashflow during these straitened times.
Of course, the delayed announcement of the Council Tax deferrals may not be a piece of civic cynicism. It is entirely possible that the council senior executives were slow with the announcement simply because they are not very good at processing such matters.
There are three main areas in which residents may benefit from discounts and deferrals of their Council Tax bills.
The council press release (which Inside Croydon’s loyal reader should note, even in this time of crisis, was not sent to the only media outlet actually based in the borough), when it finally came, said, “The Council Tax hardship fund will give residents that are of working age and receiving Council Tax support a further reduction of up to £150 from their Council Tax bill during 2020-2021. Residents entitled to this reduction do not need to apply for it and will be sent an updated Council Tax bill in the coming weeks.” Those are our italics, for emphasis.
Inside Croydon would be interested to be contacted from readers who believe that they qualify for this discount, and hear their experiences of how it has been applied.
The council announcement continued: “Those on a low income or residents that claim benefits may also be eligible for Council Tax support and can apply for this through our online form. This will include people who have not been entitled in the past, but whose income is reduced because of covid-19, such as furloughed employees, those on zero-hours contracts and the self-employed.
“Residents who are experiencing financial challenges in the wake of the crisis have the opportunity to defer payment of their council tax for up to two months from April and May 2020. This will mean that residents will pay their Council Tax over 10 instalments from June 2020 to March 2021.”
To avoid having to navigate the council website, those wishing to apply for a deferral can click here to go to the application page. The council says that once someone has applied, they “will receive a response as quickly as possible”. So sometime in the next four weeks. Probably.
It is worth emphasising that this latter scheme, which will probably be available to the majority of Croydon households, is only a deferral, and not a reduction.
The schemes form part of a package of support for residents said to be worth a total of £4.4million.
A clue to how the council is implementing these reliefs and deferrals only reluctantly came in a rather pathetic-sounding plea right at the end of the press release.
A functionary from the propaganda department in Fisher’s Folly attributed this quote to Croydon’s very own Baron Hardup, Labour councillor Simon Hall, the cabinet member for finance: “As Council Tax funds the essential frontline services we deliver, which are continuing to operate at this difficult time, we would ask those residents that can continue paying their Council Tax instalments to do so.”
Croydon Council, with its reserves run down to dangerously low levels, needs every penny they can get, it would seem.
For more information on the support available to help pay your Council Tax, click here to visit the council website.
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Many working people in Croydon are now finding themselves without jobs and the more fortunate ones are being furloughed. Everyone is being hit by the current circumstances.
So for Simon Hall, cabinet member for finance, to get on his high horse and bemoan the aforementioned residents getting Council Tax holidays because of the need to ‘maintain frontline services’ is quite pathetic and he should be ashamed of himself.
This is coming from the cabinet member for Finance, yes, Finance, that has saddled Croydon with£1.5billion of debt, one of the single highest local authority debts in the UK.
Half of this borrowing has been spaffed away by Brick-by-Brick who have sold just 6 houses.
To use front line services as an excuse not to relieve the financial pressure many Croydons residents find themselves under will be the downfall of this administration.
The council should be able to do both.
On a personal level, Simon Hall is taking home almost £4000 per month in expenses. However, Councillors have been temporarily stood down – why does Hall think he should still be paid £4000 a month?
What expenses is he incurring sat at home that requires the Council to give him a monthly £4000 payment? Why not give this £4000 to the front line services he is so concerned about?
The problem is, if you look at Hall’s register of interests, you will see he doesn’t have a job. He is using council expenses as a ‘salary’ (unless he has a private income?). This is all wrong: Councillors who are unemployed or choosing not to work and are living off the expenses dolled out by Tony Newman.
But Simon can’t have it both ways. If he’s using his expenses as ‘salary’, I suggest the Council furlough him and give 20% of his salary to front line services, just as everyone else is having to do.
I suggest Simon Hall gets a calculator with big buttons and has a good look at himself in the mirror.
And who put Simon there? Yes, Tony Newman – another Councillor who doesn’t feel the need to hold down a proper job either when the expenses are this juicy.