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Kent Coronavirus: Call for council tax bills to be suspended for needy

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People struggling to pay their council tax bills because of the coronavirus outbreak should be given an immediate holiday from payments, says a Labour politician.

Councillor Barry Lewis, who represents Margate, said the government's commitment to scrap business rates for the year should be matched by a similar pledge on local rates.

Cllr Barry Lewis
Cllr Barry Lewis

And he said councils should spell out to residents there will be no threat of court action for missed payments.

As part of of the government's contingency plans, local councils are to share a £500 million hardship grant to assist those struggling with their finances.

Local government minister Robert Jenrick said he expected councils to target support for the most vulnerable.

"We expect most of this funding to be used to provide more council tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through complementary relief," he said.

Cllr Lewis said action was needed immediately and councils should step in.

Many residents are struggling to pay their council tax bills
Many residents are struggling to pay their council tax bills

"It is something that the county council could do now.

"It is fantastic that businesses won't pay business rates and that could be a three-month holiday on mortgages.

"I think the same should be done for council tax. Saving £30 or £40 a week could help people avoid going into debt.

"The county council could use reserves to help out those struggling.

"Suspending council tax payments would put money in people's pockets straight away. We can't wait for this to happen."

Average council tax for KCC's share of the bill rose by 4% this year, meaning homes in Band C will go up by £46 to £1,201.

The government says it is up to individual councils to decide how they should help council tax payers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

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