A call for a blanket ban on all residents needing to pay their council tax has been challenged by a council’s opposition who say that it is those in need who should be targeted in these unprecedented times.

The alliance running Lewes District Council made an appeal through the media earlier this week, calling for the government to fund a three-month payment holiday for all its council tax payers. Now the Conservative group, the largest single party on the council, says that help should be directed where it is needed and primarily using money already given by central government. 

“Rather than busying themselves issuing media appeals, the anti-Conservative coalition should devote all their efforts to ensure that the government’s Hardship Fund and Small Business Grant money they have received is directed urgently to those in most need”, said Cllr Isabelle Linington the Conservative Group Leader. “Lewes District Council has already received many millions of emergency funding  from The Treasury and has a duty to distribute it with alacrity to reduce suffering and distress.”

While the initial call was for all residents to be excused their council tax obligations, that’s not what’s needed now, according to the Conservatives. “The council leader (Cllr Zoe Nicholson) herself has now admitted that this is not what would be best”, added Cllr Linington, “and the Local Government Association, which represents councils the length and breadth of the county, agrees that the best way forward is for local authorities to use the Hardship Fund money they have received as extra support for working-age Council Tax Support claimants suffering a loss of income, rather than demanding a tax holiday for all, since central government has already put in place several schemes to help people in these difficult times.”

Those who have asked Lewes District Council to defer their council tax payments until they receive government help can have their position looked at on a case-by-case basis. “I’ve heard of residents who have initially been told there is no reprieve on deferring their council tax, but our hard-working council officers have said they will now look at individual cases”, says Cllr Linington. “The self-employed, for example, may wish to defer payments until the government payments reach them in June.”

There has been criticism from some small businesses in Lewes district about the delays in opening registration for the government’s grant funding which is being administered by local councils. “I realise that the wait was for an automated system to be implemented”, adds Cllr Linington, “but the delay has been very frustrating for our local businesses who have lost their livelihoods, especially when they have heard that other councils have already started handing out money while council leaders procrastinate.”