Wasting £400k of taxpayer's cash
The administration was given over £500k, by the Government, for the Energy Rebate Discretionary Fund. This followed everyone in council tax bands A-D being given £150. It was designed to support those in bands E-H, many of whom are asset rich, but cash poor.
The administration decided that a good use of the funding was to give over 25,000 homes £17 regardless of their financial situation. I think this was waste of around £400k, which could have been done in a targeted way.
I presented this argument to the chamber on September 7th 2022. We didn't win the motion, but we can be sure that the administration will think carefully next time. They know we're watching!
What surprised me the most? Not a peep from Labour on this. I wonder what their view was. Perhaps they are being muted by their coalition with the HRA?
My speech and transcript are below.
Thank you Mr Mayor my time again, thank you to this chamber for indulging me in this and for my colleagues in doing the same.
I'm rising today Utterly confused by the decision that the administration have taken. With regards to the discretionary energy rebate scheme, I can only describe it as being an absolutely bonkers use of taxpayer's cash.
The administration got off to a good start with the scheme. They decided that those in the higher Capital Tax band, band E - H, who are in currently in receipt of council tax support would get the £150 energy rebate as everyone else. I think that's a good decision and I commend the council for making that decision.
But then the administration made what I believe is an ideological choice. That it's better to give everybody something than to give the hardest hit more. The administration understands equality, but I'm not quite sure they understand equity.
They've been given over half a million pounds of taxpayer's money to support those who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, dangerous words, for a conservative to say. But I'll suck those up when the criticism comes. The council decided to they could have given two and a half thousand families, an additional £150 with that money.
They chose instead to give about 25,000 people £17, It takes around £400,000 of taxpayer's money and sprays it around like the end of The Crystal Maze. It's untargeted. It means some of the wealthiest are going to get taxpayer support and it won't make the blindest bit of difference to an awful lot of people.
Of course, there are residents who are asset rich and cash poor we're fully aware of that. And that is why the energy rebate scheme discretionary funding was there It's there so we can target those people. So we can give them that support.
We could have given three thousand people £200 Instead of the £150, there was nothing stopping this administration from topping up the grant given to the hardest hit in society. You know, if you were in the highest council tax band in havering. £17 is about 36 hours of the council tax, likely around a day of your energy costs. I don't know if they think perhaps that's a vote winner. I'm not sure, but that seems an absolutely bizarre use of council money, of taxpayer's money, to give 36 hours of council tax relief. When you could have chosen to find those who are poorest and hardest hit and to give them £150 pounds or £200. Lifesaving, life-changing, money. £17 is unlikely to change anybody's lives.
Other councils, as we know thanks to the audit done, have come up with some fantastic schemes. I like to highlight Camden, Barnet and Greenwich, all of which have come up with some brilliant schemes, some of these as they have chosen to give further money for those in the lower council tax bands that my favorite scheme is that one has used it to a raised, hundreds of thousands of pounds of council tax arrears worked up by those who are hardest hit.
I'm not sure if you've ever been in council tax arrears but it's quite a terrifying situation to be in. I've been in it myself; I've had people writing me letters, saying they are going to take me to court and have to rely on a member of parliament to intervene due to an admin error.
We could have saved hundreds of people from sleepless nights in the fear of debt collectors, or the council prosecuting. That money could have been used to reassure people. That could have been used to top up the payments of those that need support the most.
As I said, yes, we have a number of struggling families in larger homes. But we have a huge number of very well-to-do people in this Borough who are now going to receive £17.
Every single one of us in this chamber receives at least £10k a year in taxpayer's money. Now after you've paid your income tax and so on, it might reduce from that. But I don't think that any of us in this room should be standing here saying that we deserve £17 more than what we have already received. If you do think you deserve that money, I challenge you to stand up and request it when I finish.
As I've said, the coalition's own audit of London, councils has revealed smarter users of the money including those I've just mentioned.
I don't know what on Earth has made you decide to reject targeted effective support in favor of a £17 handshake with Havering's millionaires. I'm asking that you stop, look and listen, to the real needs in our society.
We must urgently rethink this Decision.