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Petition calls for council tax holiday in Cornwall

Petition calls for council tax holiday in Cornwall

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 7:36am 1st April 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Conservative councillors have launched a petition calling on Cornwall Council to let people have a two-month holiday from paying their council tax during the coronavirus crisis.

Stephen Rushworth, Conservative councillor for St Issey and St Tudy, launched the online petition last night and it has already attracted 267 signatures.

He said: “We took the idea to the group leaders’ meeting last week but the Liberal Democrat administration said they couldn’t do it.

“The council has a cash reserve which it can use and we believe it should be used to get residents through these difficult months.

“People who can afford to pay their council tax should continue to do so but for those who are struggling there should be an opportunity to take a two month council tax holiday.

“There are a lot of people out there who can’t afford to pay their council tax at this time. We are not suggesting that they don’t pay it at all, but they could leave it for two months and then pay it over the following 10 months.”

coronavirus

But council deputy leader Adam Paynter, Cabinet member for resources, said that it would be “almost impossible” to implement such a council tax holiday.

He said: “We have discussed this and allowing people, where necessary, to start making payments in June. That wouldn’t cost the council any money, but it’s not something we could do.

“This is something that has been discussed by a number of different councils across the country but none have implemented it yet.

“In Cornwall 75% of people pay their council tax over 10 months and the rest pay over 12 months. Anyone who is paying over 10 months would be able to request to move to 12 monthly which would reduce their monthly payments.

“People who are in genuine hardship should contact the council and speak to us as there are lots of different things that we can do for different people to help.

“But to try and do this as a blanket thing would be extremely difficult.

“Anybody paying their council tax in April will have already had the payment called already so we would not be able to stop those payments anyway.”

Coronavirus

Cllr Paynter said that the Liberal Democrats were calling on the government to fund council tax relief.

“However it would be a lot better if the government said that everyone could have a two-month council tax holiday, in a similar way they have let businesses have a holiday from business rates.

“Many people have written to the government asking for that and it is something that we would support.

“The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to let everyone in property bands A to E to have a council tax holiday – that is something which central government have in their powers to do.

“There are all sorts of problems with the council trying to implement such a scheme that it is almost impossible.”

Cllr Paynter did say that the council had received £4.7million from the government to help people struggling to pay council tax.

He explained that £3.3m of that was being given to people who receive council tax support in the form of a £150 payment which he said would leave many of those households “paying little or no council tax”.

The remaining £1.4m was being put into the council’s existing hardship fund which helps people struggling to pay their council tax.

coronavirus

Cllr Paynter said that the council was willing to listen and help people who are struggling to pay their bills.

He encouraged people to call the council and said that while there had initially been a large volume of calls to the council the contact centre was now answering 85% of calls within 90 seconds.

“If people contact us we are willing to consider everyone on an individual basis and see what we can do to help,” he said.

“If you ring about council tax now within a couple of minutes you will be answered and get the advice and support that you need.”

For more information about council tax support go to www.cornwall.gov.uk or call 0300 1231 118.

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