This is the stark human cost of the borough going bankrupt

CROYDON IN CRISIS: A mum of six children is facing destitution after the council has made her family more than £200 per month worse off by cutting her Council Tax Support and failing to provide its promised hardship scheme. EXCLUSIVE by EMMA GARDINER

Facing destitution: South Norwood mum Natalie’s Council Tax has just gone up £215 per month

Natalie* is a single mum living in Croydon. She has six children, five living with her at home, including 13-year-old twins who are on the autistic spectrum, and she is a full-time carer.

Times are tough enough, with the cost of living crisis, but for Natalie and her kids they just got a whole lot tougher thanks to Croydon Council.

This month, the cash-strapped council, which went bust in 2020, implemented massive cuts to their Council Tax Support scheme that had previously protected thousands of single mothers, carers and people with disabilities from poverty. People like Natalie and her children, in fact.

After going bankrupt 18 months ago, the council is this year implementing budget cuts of £34million, and one of those cuts was to remove Council Tax Support from 20,000 of the poorest households in the borough, like Natalie’s, starting this month.

When Natalie’s 2022-2023 Council Tax notice arrived just before the start of April, Natalie was horrified to discover her bill was now £215 more per month than her last bill.

Natalie hadn’t had a clue that this was about to happen, or why, until she spoke to campaigners at the South Norwood Community Kitchen.

When it was announced, the SNCK campaigners investigated the scheme and found that it affected women and people from BME backgrounds disproportionately. The council was warned that the cuts would have dire consequences on the borough’s poorest, unnecessarily pushing families into crisis.

They went ahead with it anyway, and now the fallout has begun.

Dire consequences: the council’s under-publicised consultation showed that almost everyone on Council Tax Support would be affected by the cuts

“I had no idea why this was happening,” Natalie said.

“It came completely out of the blue. I am a carer for one of my twins. My grown-up son is a carer for the other. I know so many people in the same position, other mothers with children on the spectrum who are worried sick.

“Everything has gone up. How do they expect us to live?”

When the public raised concerns with the council about the scheme, both through the poorly publicised consultation and afterwards, they were ignored.

Not only have the council refused to reverse the cuts, but now it has become clear that they’ve also failed spectacularly to put in place any of emergency support mechanisms that they promised for people like Natalie who would feel the full impact of the cuts.

Guarantees: council leader Hamida Ali

At a meeting with council leader Hamida Ali in March, campaigners were guaranteed that a hardship scheme would be in place in time for when the new Council Tax payments were due to be made on April 1.

Promises were made that residents affected would be contacted in advance to give them time to prepare for the increase in their Council Tax bills.

Natalie was never contacted.

And to date, as we approach the second month of the new Council Tax year, there is still no hardship scheme in place, nor any information from the council as to when this might happen.

‘The council don’t care… It’s like we’re not human’

The anti-poverty and equalities campaigner, Sophia Moreau, predicted that this would happen. “This hastily drawn-up Council Tax scheme heavily penalises the poorest groups in our borough, including the working poor, unpaid carers, single parents who are disproportionately likely to be women, and people who are limited in their earnings as a result of disability.

“We are now seeing the consequences of this. The promised hardship fund has not come to fruition, and some families are finding that their Council Tax has increased from a manageable amount of £25 per month to a staggering £240.

“There has been no regard for affordability in the design and execution of this plan. We are seeing the same groups who should be entitled to further protections instead being hit harder by this. This is going to contribute to increased child poverty and intensified inequality in the borough.”

Natalie says that when she turned to the council for advice and help, she was treated with contempt, disregard and disrespect. “I tried to phone them to find out what was going on, they put me on hold for so long that eventually they cut me off.

“When I finally got through to someone, this guy was so arrogant he actually seemed to find it amusing. He told me I just had to suck it up and that I’d get used to it. He was in such a hurry to get me off the call.

“The council don’t care. The way they speak to people is so abrupt. It’s like we’re not human, like we are cattle.”

This, remember, as if anyone needed reminding, is barely one year on from Regina Road, when the council was rightly heavily criticised for its uncaring and casually dismissive attitude to its own tenants, who it ignored while they were forced to live in Dickensian conditions in council flats.

But the council has cut Council Tax Support and now stands back and does nothing.

Croydon Council, following years of its own mismanagement and failures, is now actively creating and causing poverty in this borough. The circumstances that Natalie and her family find themselves in were completely avoidable, and none of which were of their own making.

Natalie and her children are among the thousands of casualties of the Labour-run council’s ham-fisted approach to delivering essential services. And this all comes after the council also decided to hike council rents this month by 4.1per cent – in many people’s opinions, unnecessarily so.

If anyone still believes that this council has any care for the very people that they exist to serve, just remember: you were warned.

*At her request, we have not used Natalie’s real name

Read more: ‘Dangerous’ benefit cuts will hit women, disabled and children
Read more: Cynical, hypocritical and devious: benefit cut to hit thousands
Read more:
‘Council must freeze its unnecessary 4.1% rent increase’
Read more: Investigation finds systemic failure and incompetence in council

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Council Tax, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, South Norwood, Val Shawcross and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to This is the stark human cost of the borough going bankrupt

  1. Gavin Palmer says:

    What other nasty exploding bombs or hospital passes is the new Mayor to inherit?!

    I notice parking tickets are down recently and there are lots of empty Council houses, eg a 4 bed in Monks hill, others have told me they tried to give back a four bed council house to move into a smaller 2 bed and had that rejected.

    New builds empty and overpriced since June last year. Land registry transaction figures don’t lie.

    I presume this is more of the council employees aim to say ‘Im doing in the council a good job. I can make you new Mr Mayor look good by giving you empty houses, that we have kept back, so you look like Father Christmas – quite frankly the empty houses should already be occupied and rented out earning money for the council and providing homes for people months ago.

    As I drive around I see many flats without kitchens (good work for the youth as trainee fitters and builders) that is costing the council interest on the colossal £1.5Bn of debt at up to 6.5% interest rates instead of earning something back.

    Callous. Disrespect for the people of Croydon who pay their civil servant wages. This political attitude and practice with the civil service is damaging and wrecking Croydons town, society and breach of Trust and faith.

    This must stop! If not now when?

    Cheap blaming of the next political party coming into power by laying out bear traps eg the Local plan, rent rises, political problem appointments, cover up committees, ‘going for a song’ asset sell offs, blackmail of the government, cutting support when desperately needed, trying to lose rather than serve. this is unworthy of the great Towns people of Croydon.

  2. John Harvey says:

    Has anyone seen figures as to how the reduction is calculated and whether it includes any claw back from previous over claim?

  3. Colin Cooper says:

    How can anyone living in Croydon place any reliance or belief in a promise from the current Council incumbents? They have promised the Earth and delivered a handful of expired manure over and over!

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