Our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE, on the latest delays to the council handing over to residents the government money
Croydon’s cash-strapped council is sitting on more than £6million of government money that it was supposed to hand over to residents nearly four months ago. More than 41,000 households are still waiting for the money that they should have received in April, according to the council’s own figures.
The then Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced in March that every eligible household in Council Tax Band A to D in the country would receive a £150 rebate on their Council Tax bills to assist with the soaring costs of gas and electricity. Local authorities, like Croydon, were due to administer the payments, and were expected to issue the rebates against Council Tax payments from the start of the new Council Tax accounting year.
Under the scheme, councils are expected to make the payments as quickly as possible – many hard-pressed residents need the cash urgently. And the deadline for councils to make the payments is at the end of August.
But in Croydon there have been massive delays in making the payments, even for those Council Tax-payers who are on direct debit, where the council already has all their bank account and payment details to verify what really ought to be a very straightforward process.
Inside Croydon has discovered that, with just six weeks remaining for the council to do what the government has asked and hand over money to residents, 1-in-3 eligible households have still not received the rebate.
For Croydon Council, it has had more than £6million of “free money” sitting in the Town Hall vaults for almost four months. Cushty.
This is not the first time that Croydon Council has been slow to the point of reluctant to hand over millions of pounds of cash it has been given to distribute by the government.
In 2020, when Sunak and the government wanted to help small businesses over their cashflow problems when the country went into lockdown because of covid-19, hundreds of Croydon businesses were left waiting for six months or more for what were supposed to be “emergency” payments. Some firms went out of business because the council was so slow to hand over the government’s emergency covid grants.
Inside Croydon identified that there were issues with the council’s payments of the energy rebate at the beginning of June, when in an unscientific poll of our loyal readers, 87per cent of them said that they were still waiting for any council payment.
Since then, Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones, together with the South West London Law Centre, have staged an information and help day to guide residents through the council’s overly complicated “verification” process.
The discriminatory nature of who has, and who has not, received their discount is shown on an official council tracker dashboard, which shows that areas of the borough such as Kenley, Sanderstead and Coulsdon – wards in the generally more affluent south of the borough – have so far done better in the energy rebate lottery, with more than 70per cent of households there having been paid their £150.
Fairfield, West Thornton and Selhurst wards, the areas where the payment rates are lowest – with nearly half of residents in worst-served Norbury Park still waiting for their money – all tend to be in the less-well-off north of the borough, where it is fair to assume the need for a £150 rebate is often more urgent.
No explanation has been offered by the council executives in charge of these slow payments as to why this stark contrast between poorer and more affluent wards exists.
Today, Stuart King, a councillor for West Thornton and the leader of the Labour group at the Town Hall, told Inside Croydon, “It is astonishing that almost 42,000 households are still waiting for their £150 council tax rebate payments.
“Many residents are facing crippling energy costs as rampant inflation puts pressure on households right across Croydon, so thousands of residents are relying on these payments.
“Mayor Perry needs to spend less time setting up photo opportunities and more time focused on fixing this appalling mess he is responsible for.”
Read more: All you need to know about £150 Council Tax energy rebate
Read more: Moment my patience snapped waiting for £150 energy refund
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This highlights a major problem in our ‘democracy’ wherein the powers awarded to local Councils are often abused either through sheer incompetence or else through deliberate political policy.
Croydon Council is still a majority Labour Council although ‘hung’ in terms of voting. My understanding is that this issue is theoretically handled at Council rather than Mayoral level, and that leads to my question “Who is giving instructions to the senior Council Civil Servant?”
In any event the present situation is a DISGRACE, and so far as I can see totally inexcusable. Maybe someone can present me with some form of justification …
The council is not a majority Labour council. Labour has the largest number of councillors, but not a majority. In any case, councillors have been rendered irrelevant by the introduction of the mayoral system. Croydon Council is Tory-controlled.
And you have not grasped the realities of how Croydon Council operates. No one gives instructions to the senior council civil servant. The council’s civic servants tell the elected representatives how they are going to operate the council.