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Councils in Kent face £20m tax deficit as result of householders struggling to pay bills during pandemic


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Councils in Kent are facing a £20m shortfall in council tax as a result of householders struggling to pay bills during the Covid pandemic.

Figures released by the government show that in total, the 13 district and borough councils in Kent are facing a shortfall of £19,395,709 on income expected from the tax.

Councils in Kent are facing a £20m shortfall in council tax
Councils in Kent are facing a £20m shortfall in council tax

There are fears that without government support to help bridge the shortfall, councils could have to consider cutting services.

Councils across England are facing a combined deficit of more than half a billion pounds for the 2020-21 financial year because of the pandemic.

Data from the Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities (MHCLG) shows that Folkestone council had the highest deficit at £3,387,938 with Maidstone council having the next highest shortfall at £3,181,394. Canterbury City Council had the third highest deficit at £2,852,930.

At the other end of the scale, Sevenoaks Council had the lowest deficit at £78,700; followed by Tonbridge and Malling council at £169,729.

A government scheme designed to help councils cope with plummeting council tax income will cushion the blow but will not fully cover it all: local authorities will be reimbursed for up to 75% of irrecoverable council tax and business rate losses.

Council tax bill (47809331)
Council tax bill (47809331)

Rob Whiteman of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) said this will compensate councils for a “large chunk” of the deficit.

He added: “Ultimately, this financial hole isn’t as deep as it looks.

“But with the government ending Covid support by the end of the year, it’s hard to see how councils will be able to afford to repay the remaining deficit without additional ‘help’ from taxpayers in the future.”

An MHCLG spokesman said: “We’ve committed over £36 billion to help councils support their communities and local businesses during the pandemic.”

“We’re also providing councils with £670 million of new grant funding to enable them to continue reducing council tax bills for those least able to pay, including households financially hard-hit by the pandemic.”

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