RMBC accused over tax rebate "failure" - but council leader hits back at "political games"

RMBC accused over tax rebate "failure" - but council leader hits back at "political games"

By Chris Brayford | 23/06/2022

RMBC accused over tax rebate 'failure' - but council leader hits back at 'political games'

 

MP ALEXANDER Stafford and council leader Chris Read traded blows over RMBC’s handling of the £150 council tax rebate.

Scenes of long queues outside pawn shops in the town centre put Rotherham in the spotlight earlier this month as many residents cashed in £150 rebate cheques for up to £15 less.

Rother Valley MP Mr Stafford said the council had “failed” residents by “sitting on the money” and allowing residents to “lose out” by going to pawnbrokers.

He also criticised why “no other comparable council” had issues getting money out in full to residents.

Mr Stafford said: “This is residents’ money given by the Government, with the council just in charge of the administration.

“We saw something similar during the lockdowns when RMBC did not give out £5 million of money that was earmarked for our area and was then sent back to the Government.

“This is all residents money and everyone should have got it quickly and in full to help with the cost of living.

“Whose side is the Labour council on?

“Let me be clear, this isn’t a failure of the many hardworking people who work for Rotherham Council, but is a clear failure of the ‘Labour administration’ who run it and provide direction to the officers.

“I’m tired of Rother Valley residents being let down by Labour.”

Cllr Read hit back at Mr Stafford’s comments as “playing political games”.

He said: “Mr Stafford might want to consider why, under his government, people are so desperate to get their hands on this cash.

“The number of children growing up in poverty in the Rother Valley constituency has increased by 15 per cent since 2015 alone, even before the current cost of living crisis began, and Mr Stafford was a vocal defender of cutting Universal Credit payments — leaving more than half of all the families with children in our borough a full £1,000 a year worse off.
 
“He chooses his moment to be bothered.”

Cllr Read also disputed the claim that only RMBC has experienced challenges sending out the rebate and ensures a large majority have now received the money.

“Stoke on Trent Council received 45,000 phone calls in one day to make applications,” he said.

“That’s the reality of the system the Conservative government has dreamt up.

“We are confident that money has now been paid to the overwhelming majority of eligible households here, including those in higher council tax bands, without needing to resort to an application process that excludes some people and more quickly than some places using vouchers which are sent out in phases over a period of weeks.

“Accepting that there is no ideal system to suit everyone, we are making the best of a bad situation in order to get the money into people’s pockets.”

Cllr Read has previously hit back at Mr Stafford’s claims over the unspent £5 million, saying it had not been possible to allocate it due to strict government restrictions.