Outrage as some Corby households see council tax bills TRIPLE

Bills are dropping through letterboxes across the borough - and people are not happy

By Kate Cronin
Friday, 12th March 2021, 6:47 pm
File picture.
File picture.

Corby householders have reacted with fury after council tax bills began arriving that might see them having to pay triple this year's bill.

The new North Northamptonshire Council that begins operating next month, has reset council tax rates to ensure that bills across the entire north of the county are aligned.

Previously, Corby Council provided a generous Local Council Tax Support scheme for residents which meant that the poorest residents only had to pay eight percent of their total council tax bill.

The most vulnerable in Kettering previously had to pay 45 per cent of their bill, and those in East Northants and Wellingborough were paying 20 per cent.

The new unitary council has set the level at 25 per cent meaning that from April 1, bills for about 7,500 of the poorest households in Corby will rise by anything up to three times the amount they paid this year. There are no plans for discretionary support schemes to help those that will struggle to pay.

At the time this was debated by the shadow North Northants authority, Councillor Mark Pengelly said it was designed to 'shaft Corby'.The overall rate for council tax has also gone up by five per cent for all households including those not receiving council tax support. A band B household in Corby could now have to find an extra £197 per year.

An alternative budget proposed by Labour councillors was rejected by the shadow authority.

Although the decision went out to public consultation last year, has been publicised in this newspaper since last September and discussed by local Labour councillors on social media, many people have been shocked to find such a big bill landing on their doormats this week.

One said: "My bill has gone up 300 per cent. I can't believe it. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to pay it."

And another said: "I was shocked and rang them thinking they had made a mistake to be told basically to deal with it. This town needs to come together on this one."

Elections will be held on May 6 but until then the current Conservative-controlled regime is responsible for the decision making.

Councillor Adam Henley, Labour’s finance spokesperson, said: “At a time of great uncertainty for our residents with Covid 19 and the change to a new authority, Labour felt it was important to prioritise those hardest hit families.

"The Tory administration rejected our move to a harmonised 15 per cent over the next two years. Therefore, the majority of hard-hit residents across North Northamptonshire are at least £100 worse off over the next year. This isn’t good enough and I didn’t become a councillor to punish the poorest residents.

“It was clear that each council has had a different way of managing its budgets, but this new approach is going to hit some residents very hard.

“It is a big ask to make sure everyone is treated fairly across North Northamptonshire, but the Conservatives had options including delaying the increase over two years. This would be fairer to people living in Wellingborough and East Northants and still ensure the new Unitary authority can deliver services.”

Although across North Northamptonshire the rise will be on average five per cent, in some areas it will be much higher. Wellingborough council taxpayers will see a rise of 6.4 per cent and in East Northants this will go up by 6.9 per cent.

Councillor Jean Addison, Leader of the new North Northamptonshire Labour Group, said: “This really is going to have a major impact on many households who are already under pressure. "The Conservatives say the new council’s first ever budget will mean there is an opportunity to focus on the job of delivering services.

“We are only in this position because of the financial mess created by the Conservatives who controlled Northamptonshire County Council. When bad decisions are taken it is our communities who suffer and have to pick up the pieces.”

A shadow North Northamptonshire Council spokesman said: "Residents of North Northamptonshire deserve quality services and it is essential in these challenging times, to set a budget which protects our vital services.

"Tough choices needed to be made to allow us to continue to provide services and support communities, businesses and the voluntary sector.

"It is also important that as we come together across North Northamptonshire we ensure that people in the same situation are treated consistently and fairly wherever they live.

"As part of this it was necessary to harmonise the level of council tax from across the existing councils as well as their local council tax support schemes.

"Creating a single Council Tax, based on a weighted average of the existing council tax rates, was part of a seven-week budget consultation and more than half the respondents were in agreement with the approach proposed.

"We also needed to bring together the existing Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) schemes in to a new single scheme for North Northamptonshire. This was subject to a separate eight week consultation and nearly half of those that responded agreed with the proposal to have a minimum contribution of 25 per cent towards Council Tax for working age people only.

"However, we recognise that people may be experiencing financial hardship and have difficulty in paying their bill and in such instances the Council can consider applications for further support."

Councillor Ian Jelley, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Revenues and Benefits for North Northamptonshire Shadow Authority said: “We have had to make some tough choices to allow the new Council to continue to provide services and support communities, businesses and the voluntary sector.

“We feel that it is important that we ensure that people in the same situation are treated consistently and fairly wherever they live.

“There are a number of organisations who operate alongside the Council that offer advice and assistance to those who need it. If you find yourself in financial difficulties, please contact the existing local council directly.”