The Independent London Newspaper
19th January 2019

Camden Council to stop chasing worst-off for council tax with plan to exempt 11,500 residents

    Theo Blackwell and Don Williams

    Published: 12 July, 2016
    By RICHARD OSLEY

    THOUSANDS of people in Camden are set to be made exempt from paying council tax to save the Town Hall cash on chasing for money they do not have.

    Labour council chiefs are looking at a plan which would see around 11,500 of the borough's poorest residents no longer receive the bill from the Town Hall, 

    The proposal will go out to a public consultation but could come into use next year.

    The people who will be covered by the scheme already have a discount of around 90 per cent on their council tax bill due to their circumstances, but would move to a status of paying none at all. 

    Most are living on very low wages or entirely on benefits, and include families and disabled claimants.

    Conservative opposition councillors said the idea was borrowed from neigh­bour­ing Westminster, where the Tories are in power.

    In Camden, the loss of income would amount to around £1.4m­ a year, but the council estimates this will be offset by savings on bailiffs and court costs  from no longer pursuing people and as the result of more money coming in from the recent increase in council tax.

    The non-payers that the council will continue to pursue would involve debts of greater value, and will therefore be worthwhile chasing

    Camden agreed to raise council tax by 3.99 percent earlier this year, a move which the Tories said could have been avoided by “back office” savings. Labour members said the loss of £70m cut in government grants for council spending had led to a stretch on finances and a need for a raise.

    Finance chief Councillor Theo Blackwell said: “It would mean we can concentrate our resources on people who can afford to pay, but aren’t. 

    “There is not much point chasing people for £100 or so bill, after the discount they already have, with court orders bailiffs if they are never going to be able to pay."

    He added: “The rise in council tax will allow some room for redistribution. 

    “In all, people get a good deal from the council with years of frozen council tax or below inflation rises.”

    Conservative finance chief Councillor Don Williams said: “I raised this in the council two years, and we were told it definitely can’t be done. And now here we are along the line and Theo is saying it now can be done. 

    “They should have listened to us earlier, as in Westminster they are already doing this. The trouble with Camden though is that council tax is far too high.”

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