Coronavirus: East Ham Labour chairman urges Newham mayor to scrap council tax hike

Tahir Mirza is calling on the mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, to scrap planned cuts and a council ta

Tahir Mirza is calling on the mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, to scrap planned cuts and a council tax hike. Picture: T Mirza - Credit: Archant

A petition has been launched urging the town hall to scrap plans to hike council tax to help people struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, is called on to take “urgent action” and reverse £45million worth of cuts while scrapping the tax rise and a proposal to charge householders for first parking permits.

“At a time of dire economic hardship for many the council should not be increasing the burden”, the online petition states.

Earlier this month Newham announced a 3.99 per cent council tax rise from April to pay for more youth services and rough sleeping provisions. It is also reviewing its parking charges.

The petition launch follows publication of an open letter from East Ham constituency Labour Party chairman, Tahir Mirza, where the mayor is urged to help people unable to work because of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Mr Mirza writes: “It’s wonderful how community groups are being formed to help each other in this time of great need.

“However, there is also an economic element that also faces our residents. Where many will not be able to work and the government has just announced some help.

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“But the council can also help by suspending the council tax increase and the introduction of the new parking review. This will greatly help at a time when our residents are going to find themselves in financial difficulties.”

The letter from Ms Fiaz’s Labour Party comrade ends with an appeal to Newham councillors to support his call.

A council spokeswoman said: “The council is making rapid and significant changes to its services to protect and support our residents through the worst health pandemic for generations.

“We have taken immediate measures, for example, suspending parking enforcement in Residential Parking Zones, except for cars causing an obstruction, and created eight community hubs to distribute food and key essentials to vulnerable residents. We have also developed a whole range of support to our local businesses to help them get through the crisis.

“In relation to council tax there is help available through the council tax reduction scheme. Those whose household incomes have been affected as a result of the pandemic should contact us, so that we can offer assistance. We are allocating a £4.5million hardship fund to those most in need, starting by ensuring that those residents receiving council tax support get £150 of council tax rebated - or their liability reduced to nil if lower than £150.

“Like most local authorities, the council agreed its budget before the current pandemic emergency. Reversing the council tax increase that had been agreed would not be an effective way of getting money to those most in need.

“Residents who have not been financially affected by the emergency should continue to pay council tax as normal, so that we have the financial resources to deliver essential social care and other services, in these the most challenging of times.”

A total of 220 signatures have been added to the petition, as of Thursday, March 26. In addition to urging action, it calls on Ms Fiaz to release funds from the council’s emergency pot of money to support people suffering the consequences of the virus.