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City Matters 125


CITYMATTERS.LONDON January - February 2021 | Page 3 NEWS subscribe to our newsletter at WIDESPREAD RISE: Most councils in England are expected to announce rises in council tax this year. Council tax to rise 9.5% to fill pandemic funding gaps COUNCIL tax is set to rise by 9.5% across London from April as City Hall tries to plug funding gaps caused by the pandemic, writes Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter. The rise, which works out to an average of £2.63 a month or £31.59 a year per household, will contribute towards transport and policing in London as both the TfL and Metropolitan Police look to make up for shortfalls caused by Covid-19. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he faced “huge pressure from government ministers” to increase council tax and that proposed increases were around double what was eventually agreed. Mr Khan said: “With a lot of hard work, I have been able to limit the council tax increase this year to less than half of what some expected, in the face of huge pressure from government ministers to increase council tax to pay for public transport and policing in the capital. “I fully recognise that in many households, finances are more stretched than ever before because of the pandemic and this decision is not taken lightly. Council tax is a regressive tax but the Government have left us with little other option. “The Transport Secretary told me that he expected council tax would have to go up in London and the Home Secretary assumed a huge increase rather than funding the police properly. “I promise all Londoners that every penny of this will be put to good and efficient use keeping our public transport system running and keeping Londoners safe.” Conservative candidate for Mayor of London Shaun Bailey came under fire last month for sending a letter marked with official City Hall branding to Londoners warning that mayoral council tax was set to rise by 21% under the current mayor. Mr Bailey has hit out at Mr Khan for the decision to raise council tax and suggested that if elected, he would introduce corporate sponsorship for TfL as an alternative way of raising money. He said: “Over the last four years, Sadiq Khan racked up £9.56 billion in waste at Transport for London — leaving TfL unable to afford the services Londoners rely on. “That’s why he’s now forcing Londoners to pay for his mismanagement with a massive £130 million hike in the council tax and congestion charge. As I feared he would, Khan is passing on the cost of his mistakes to Londoners. “In the middle of a pandemic, Sadiq Khan already hiked the congestion charge by 30%, which is a massive hit to the cost of living for Londoners at a time when they can least afford it. “Instead of taking the easy way out, Sadiq Khan should adopt my plan for corporate sponsorship of TfL. That’s what I’ll do as Mayor.” Most councils in England are expected to announce rises in council tax this year after Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined plans to cut support for local authorities in last month’s Spending Review. The Chancellor gave local authorities the power to raise council tax by 5% to make up for the loss of Government funding. Welcome support for businesses that are struggling during the Covid pandemic ALL of us would have hoped to start 2021 on a more positive note but, as the Prime Minster said recently, it seems that the weeks ahead will be the hardest yet since the start of the pandemic, writes Catherine McGuinness, City Policy Chair. The nation is facing an extremely serious and difficult situation, so saving lives and protecting the NHS must be the priority during this time. But, of course, livelihoods matter too. By the time the national lockdown restrictions are reviewed, it will have been almost a year since many parts of our economy have been able to trade normally. Many larger businesses in the City have transitioned to working from home effectively but unfortunately this has not been possible for smaller firms in the retail, hospitality or cultural sectors that rely on footfall. That is why the extra support the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced last week for business is welcome. We will contact eligible businesses in the Square Mile as soon as possible. Nonetheless the national lockdown will, again, make trading for many businesses exceptionally difficult if not impossible. And some businesses in the Square Mile will struggle to make ends meet through the spring despite this latest support. So, the City Corporation will continue to press the Government for further assistance and seek to treat our own tenants considerately. We urgently need our economy to thrive to help pay for the vast amount of support being provided at this time. While the pandemic may have changed how we work, many employers and staff want to return to City when safe, so we will need clarity in the coming months on when office staff can return to Covidsecure workplaces. There is no doubt the beginning of 2021 will be a tough time as we deal with the national lockdown brought in by the Government to control the spread of Covid-19. We can take heart that this year, unlike last, we have a vaccine programme. But this will take time to rollout and complete so it is important we each continue to play our part in trying to stop the spread of this dreadful virus. In the meantime, we strongly urge all Londoners to comply with the ‘stay at home’ rule that we must only leave home for specific reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to exercise or to seek medical assistance. We also need to keep following these three, simple rules too, wash our hands, wear a face covering and socially distance. When we all do this, each and every one of us is helping to drive down infection rates, protect the NHS and save lives. Please remember to stay safe and thank you to all of you who are actively involved in supporting our communities at present, whether it is through work, through volunteering or just through being good neighbours.

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