York Labour have called on the City of York Council to consider more ways in which it can provide help to residents struggling to pay their council tax as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A series of support measures have been introduced at the national and local level, with the council tasked with allocating around £1m of government cash to those of working age already in receipt of council tax support. Meanwhile Councillor Danny Myers, leader of the Labour Group in council, has written to the Deputy Chief Executive of City of York Council to ask that a council tax holiday scheme be instituted and urgently advertised to residents.
Under such a scheme, those who are concerned about their immediate finances can apply to defer their payments for at least two months initially. Residents would still have to pay the full amount of council tax over the course of the year, but a holiday on payments from April to June could be helpful for those who need it. A hardship fund for council tax payments exists, but it could be overwhelmed by the level of demand in the coming months, explained Cllr. Myers.
“Given the impact on residents of a large part of the local economy shutting down, a huge number of people are going to be affected and potentially applying for help due to financial hardship. I welcome the extra support to those already receiving council tax support, but I would like the Council to further extend its help in this area.
“As it has with its commercial properties, I want the council to consider ways in which it can give people the ability to defer council tax payments until later in the financial year. It is one thing committing to not taking enforcement action against people slipping behind with scheduled monthly payments, but it would reduce anxiety and help them enormously if residents knew they could take a payment holiday for a few months”.
Other local authorities have quickly setup council tax holiday schemes and a few months not having to worry about paying council tax could make a huge difference, Cllr. Myers added.
“If the council can still get its council tax money in over the course of the year, which we must recognise is essential to fund public services, then I think some leeway for bill payers is a good thing. It’s important to consider that whatever focussed help is offered, take up will never be universal so more comprehensive ways to offer help to struggling residents should also be on the table”.
Cllr. Myers also said he recognised all the hard-work that the council’s staff are currently undertaking, adding that in order to help with the overall effort in the coming months, they must be well supported and looked after as the impacts of COVID-19 escalate.