Coronavirus: Newham Council approves more than £60m worth of council tax and business rates relief

Newham has called for more money to help tackle avoidable health differences after the borough was n

Newham has called for more money to help tackle avoidable health differences after the borough was named the area in England and Wales with the most Covid-19 related deaths. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Newham Council has agreed plans to offer business rates relief, provide council tax rebates and streamline services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of £2.7million from Newham’s £4.3m share of a government hardship fund will be used to slash the amount paid by working households already helped under an existing council tax reduction scheme by up to £150.The local authority expects 20,000 financially “vulnerable” householders will benefit from the move.

A 100 per cent discount on rates and grants from £10,000 to £25,000 for eligible businesses were given the green light in an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday, April 3 at Newham Dockside.

In total, Newham anticipates the total value of those grants to be £61m, though it could change.

Leisure, retail and hospitality businesses, as well as nurseries, can get the relief which is funded mostly by the government.

Councillors also agreed on which critical and essential services the council will provide without fail if the coronavirus crisis worsens.

These include bin collections, highways safety, child protection, social care, youth safety, temporary and emergency accommodation.

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Cabinet members also voted in favour of granting the council’s chief executive, Althea Loderick, extra powers lasting six months and only to be used in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. These include approving spending decisions up to £5m.

While the council considers the cost of the changes to be “difficult to assess”, its report notes Newham has been allocated £10.5m in general costs to tackle the Covid-19 emergency, £4.3m for the hardship fund and £8.8m to compensate for missed business rate payments.

The government has pledged to stump up any extra spending where council budgets do not cover extra service change costs.

Cllr Sarah Ruiz asked: “The Tory government has almost decimated local government. How confident are we they would be true to their promise that they would reimburse us for money we spend?

“What measures do we have in place so this is not a green light to spend, spend, spend?”

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said there would be ongoing discussions at a national level on the clarity needed.