Harrow to make council tax rise less painful for some

Following the last year’s maximum legal limit increase (4.99%), the council tax rise for 2020-21 is close to 4% which, like previously, has serious implications for those worst affected by government cuts.
Harrow follows the London pattern where the poorest pay 8.1 per cent of household income in council tax, while for those in the top income decile contribute just 1.3 per cent of their earnings.
This disparity is mainly because property valuations, on which the system is based, have not been updated since 1991, while house prices have rocketed. But the inability of cash-strapped local authorities to offer the poorest full relief from the tax as was the case in the past, when the relief was funded by central government, is another factor.
Harrow has agreed to invest an extra £400,000 a year to help those worst affected by government cuts. The new funding will give extra Council Tax relief to families on Universal Credit, freeze Council Tax for low-income households, and create a new Council Tax Protection Fund for people.
Under the new Fund, families making their first claim for Universal Credit will receive a two-week Council Tax discount, helping to see them through the long wait before they get their first payment.
Universal Credit is a single payment designed to replace the current benefits system. The amount of Universal Credit can change as people’s income changes, and claimants can wait six weeks for their first payment. This means frequent changes to Council Tax Support, uncertainty for claimants and higher costs for the council.
Cllr Adam Swersky, cabinet member for finance, said “The wait for Universal Credit can be an especially uncertain and worrying time and can force families to rely on food banks or even become homeless. Our new investments will make thousands of people better off at their time of greatest need”.
Tory opposition group on the council once again let down the residents as they failed to produce a shadow budget, and therefore missing opportunity to hold the administration to account through well informed argument.