The magic wand that an elected Mayor was supposed to wave and put right all that is wrong with Croydon might take a little longer to cast its spell, judging by the on-going struggles of the cash-strapped council’s officials to do their jobs – whether running the contact centre, getting people’s rubbish collected or even handing out free money.
The propaganda bunker at Fisher’s Folly broke off from its important work of reporting on Mayor Jason Perry’s grand tour of Croydon on Monday to issue its latest missive, effectively an admission that the council has failed to work out a way to distribute the £150 energy rebates provided by the Tory government.
Most households in Council Tax bands A to D qualify for a rebate of £150, if they are occupied as a sole or main residence as at April 1 this year. This includes those who receive Council Tax support.
The payment from the government is intended to defray rapidly rising fuel costs, and is a one-off refund, not a “loan”, and therefore does not need to be repaid.
The payments should have been made to eligible householders from April, if they pay their Council Tax by direct debit. And according to the government’s website, if you don’t use direct debit, “your local council will contact you from April to arrange a method for paying the rebate”.
Note that: “from April“.
At Croydon Council, it took them two whole months before they issued a statement on their website (goodness knows how residents who don’t have access to the interweb are supposed to get this information).
The council press office has failed to issue any press release to Inside Croydon on this important matter.
But on May 30, the council “invited” residents to complete an online form to receive their rebate payment. Again, the council offers no alternative, off-line method of claiming the government cash, which the council is obliged to distribute (rather than hang on to and hopes no one notices…).
The council reckons even its online form “should take around 10 minutes to complete”.
The council appears to be using the energy rebate as an excuse for a massive data-scraping exercise. “Residents will need their property reference number – located on the top right of their Council Tax bill, contact details, National Insurance number, bank account number and sort code.”
The council states that, “Croydon households will receive their £150 council tax rebate within two weeks of the completed form being returned and their details verified.”
This sounds similar to the two-week promise made by Croydon Council to small business owners in 2020, when the council was handed millions in lockdown grants by the government. The promise was readily broken, as in some cases it took council officials as much as six months to process the payments, causing financial hardship to many and seeing some traders go out of business altogether.
Probably as worrying as the council’s two-month delay in getting any kind of announcement out to Council Tax-payers is this line in their press release: “Residents who already pay their Council Tax by direct debit and have not received payment are encouraged to also get in touch via the online form.”
The council says it has been processing rebates for residents who pay by direct debit “since the beginning of April, paying out over £7.3million”.
Have you received your £150 Council Tax energy rebate yet?
Please take part in our quick survey (it won’t take you 10min, like the council’s form!) or post a comment below
And let the new elected Mayor, Jason Perry, know what you think by emailing him here: Mayor@croydon.gov.uk or by phoning 020 3253 2017.
If you can’t get through at the council, try Mayor Perry’s work number, at Carlton Building Plastics: 020 8665 1221
The council says, “The majority of payments have now been completed – a small number of account-holders will be contacted directly for further verification checks.”
Which seems at odds with reality. Does the council ever conduct “verification checks” when receiving the monthly Council Tax payments from these accounts each month? Of course it does not.
And there’s grumbling disquiet that perhaps the council’s account of having made “the majority of payments”, and the number of residents who have yet to receive the rebate do not really tally.
As with the covid business grants, there’s a strong suspicion that the cash-strapped council might be hanging on to the government cash for as long as it can.
Claims for the rebate can only be processed until September 30.
“The council will begin contacting households who do not pay by direct debit in the coming days via the records they hold for individual accounts,” the council says. The messages may come from both the council and their form provider – GrantApproval.
Given the duality of approaches, the council is also having to issue a warning to residents to beware of scammers. “The council will never call residents to ask for bank details for the rebate. These should only be provided via the online form on the council’s website.”
Those who are not able to contact the council on its website are being offered the Council Tax contact centre phone number – 020 8726 7000 – but this is only staffed for seven hours each weekday, and not at all at weekends or at bank holidays.
Executive Mayor Jason Perry has so far done nothing to extend the opening hours of the council’s contact centre phone lines.
Even those residents who try to use the council’s cost-cutting online services and its “clunky” and regularly tangled website are being thwarted this week.
The council usually does all in its powers to avoid logging missed bin collections.
But since the weekend, they have been carrying dire warnings of operational problems, not only with rubbish contractor Veolia’s bin collection service – or non-collection service, which they claim is still struggling with covid and HGV driver shortages – but even with their own website, where it has been impossible for at least two days to log missed collections.
Elsewhere on the council website, “revised services” – which usually means reduced services – are being highlighted, with red flags raised for rubbish and recycling services.
Town Hall insiders speculate that the council’s website and officials are struggling to cope with the volume of reports of missed bin collections, and are gearing themselves up for another tsunami of complaints of poor or non-existent service as we head in to the four-day bank holiday weekend.
But one area of administration that the council is apparently supremely efficient in is in issuing court action against law-abiding residents if they dare stop their Council Tax payments.
Inside Croydon is aware of several residents who paid the £71.02 for fortnightly green garden waste collections, but who have gone months without their leaves and clippings being taken away.
Having failed to receive the service that they have paid for, one resident decided to dock the money from their Council Tax payments.
In less than a month, Croydon Council was issuing their dissatisfied customer with a legal notice for non-payment of Council Tax.
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