There have been many headlines over the past few weeks, including the dreadful events in Manchester and London and the political upheaval of the government losing its majority. The impact of all these and other events, of course, has an impact on local government and the services we provide.
Many of the services and personnel delivering them have quite rightly received the praise they deserve, as people put their own lives in danger to help others. In addition to the immediate response, there is often a great deal of help required for many months - even years - following these events and local government is at the forefront of delivering these services. These often include our own revenues, benefits and advice services, as we ensure our residents receive the financial assistance to which they are entitled, with discounts/exemptions identified and delivered, and appropriate payment plans negotiated.
Unfortunately, whilst these events get the attention to which they are entitled, once again politicians think that local government can be an easy hit, for example as Vince Cable comes out and criticises the collection rates for council tax and business rates, concentrating on the uncollected monies rather than the collection rates for these taxes.
During 2016/17, local authorities in England collected £26b compared to £22b in 2012/13. Whilst the collection rate understandably went down in 2013/14, owing to the introduction of the local council tax support schemes, the collection rate now is not far off the rates achieved in 2012/13. In Wales, the story is the same, with local authorities achieving the highest ever collection rate, at 97.4%. And in Scotland, In-year collection rates have improved steadily from 87.2% in 1998/99 to 93.8% in 2006/07 and now 95.8% in 2016/17.
These collection rates are set against the continuation of austerity and reducing staff num-bers, as budgets are cut and in England the poorest in our society have to make a contri-bution towards their council tax bill.
Wouldn’t it be easier if the politicians came out and congratulated revenues and benefits staff for the incredible job they do in delivering the most efficient tax system in the world, at the same time ensuring our residents receive the benefits to which they are entitled? I’m not sure how we can reverse this particular thought process!
Since my last article, I have been extremely busy undertaking presidential duties and have been to many parts of Great Britain, including visits to Scotland (the Revenues Symposium) and to the Wales Conference in LLandrindod Wells. I thank everyone for the warm welcome I receive everywhere I go.
I have a small number of events to attend over the next couple of weeks before there is a lull in activity during August as the holiday period reaches its climax…..at which point I hope you all have the holiday and rest you undoubtedly deserve!