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SCC Cannot Suspend Council Tax Because Funds Are Vital In Crisis, Says Leader Oliver

Published on: 1 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 3 Apr, 2020

By Rebecca Curley

local democracy reporter

Surrey County Council has no plans to suspend council tax or freeze payments for residents in financial trouble because of the coronavirus outbreak, said the leader, Cllr Tim Oliver.

Council Leader Tim Oliver

He pointed out that services such as social workers and teachers were now vital and, despite financial help from central government, funds were needed to support the local authority.

But borough and districts councils can suspend payments from residents, he added, although the councils would still need to meet the financial obligations and SCC payment deadlines set.

Some councillors in Surrey say they have been looking at ways to offer council tax relief during the crisis, or ways to suspend payments. Guildford’s council leader, Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), has already said the borough could not afford the £8.3 million a month that would cost.

A Surrey council tax bill consists of a percentage for the county council, the local borough or district council, Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner’s office and in some places a parish or town council.

Cllr Oliver (Con, Weybridge) said they could suspend direct debits from residents, but that the borough or district would then have to borrow money to meet the council tax payment commitments to pay the county council.

“We have to be realistic about this,” he added. “The government has put in support packages for businesses and individuals.”

He said SCC was doing all it could to support residents through adult services, healthcare, education, care workers and emergency food.

“There’s more pressure on our services than ever before,” he added. “As a local authority, we will do whatever is necessary.”

Other concerns are the long-term impact of the pandemic and how the SCC plans for the aftermath of the crisis.

Cllr Oliver went on: “The Local Resilience Forum is on top of dealing with the immediate crisis and people need to be reassured there are plans in place and we will be getting to people with food and medicine.

“The mental health issues we really need to keep an eye on. When we are through this crisis there will be of course long-term consequences and help.”

He said the council was doing all it could to make sure volunteers and frontline staff could move around freely to provide the support.

“It’s times like this that bring out the best in people,” he said. “All of our staff at the county council have been unbelievable. People are working very long days and in very difficult circumstances but we will get through it.”

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Responses to SCC Cannot Suspend Council Tax Because Funds Are Vital In Crisis, Says Leader Oliver

  1. John Perkins Reply

    April 2, 2020 at 10:52 am

    It’s good to know that with pubs and restaurants closed and customers unable to go to shops, we can still run, and pay for, a full council service.

  2. Will Caley Reply

    April 2, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    As the council collects the council tax in ten monthly instalments, why don’t they suspend collection for April and May and collect these two months in February and March 2021 (normally the two months we don’t pay in)?

    The council will get the same amount and we as the taxpayer will pay exactly the same amount, but it might help folk stuck in their homes, potentially without any income at all, to get through the next few months.

  3. Alan Cooper Reply

    April 2, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Good idea from Will Caley above. I have no idea how much I am paying this year, as have no notification from the council. I presumed this was down to current situation.

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