Council tax questions regarding coronavirus

Do I qualify for a payment from the Hardship Fund?

The government is providing local authorities with funding to give extra council tax help to those in receipt of Council Tax Reduction. This is to support working-age residents in order to reduce the amount of council tax they need to pay. This reduction will initially be £150, or if the annual bill is less than £150, the amount to reduce the bill to zero.

New bills will be sent out by mid-May.

I can’t afford my council tax payments – can you help me?

We will do our best to support residents through this difficult period. If you cannot afford your council tax instalments these are the options available to you:

  • You can apply for a council tax reduction to help with your council tax bill. You can do this online via the web address shown below, depending on the area of Buckinghamshire you live in:
  • If you are of working age and now on a low income you should make a claim for Universal Credit if you require help with your rent payments.
  • We would strongly advise you to continue to pay your council tax if you possibly can. However, we would urge any resident who is expecting to have difficulties in making their council tax payments to let us know so we can work through issues together in a sensible and practical way.

Why do I have to pay full council tax when services are being stopped? (coronavirus related)

Council tax is a property/person tax and not a bill for services and so it should be paid as normal. However, if you are having difficulties paying because of the coronavirus situation please contact us (contact details above) and we will do our best to help you.

How is my council tax being used – if services are not operating as usual?

The Council is continuing to work hard to deliver as many services as possible during the current crisis and is indeed providing additional support for the most vulnerable members of the community. The services we deliver and how we can deliver them are kept under constant review, so the position will change in light of new government guidance and also the availability of staff.

Your Council Tax bill is made up of a number of components. In addition to the amount spent by Buckinghamshire Council the bill also includes a precept for the police, fire service and, for many, for their local town or parish council. See how the bill is divided and how the Council spends the money.

Adult Social Care services support some of the most vulnerable members of our community, largely supporting those in old age and adults with disabilities. In 2020/21 our spending on services for this group is likely to exceed £148m (approximately 38.7% of our revenue budget). A proportion of this funding is ring-fenced and can only be spent on these services.

Our Children’s services look after children and families to keep them safe, supported and improve their health and wellbeing through a number of services and in 2020/21 our spending on these services will be in the region of £77 (approximately 20% of our revenue budget)

During this crisis, the council is delivering even more services to support those in need as a result of the pandemic, as well as maintaining existing services. In particular we are focussed on working with those people in ‘shielded’ groups – people with long-term health issues and/or who are over 70 – and many of our staff have been moved to work in different areas and money reassigned to make sure we can meet the increased and different needs of our residents and businesses during this difficult time .

In addition to our usual adult care work, in the current crisis it has been necessary to refocus more of our resources to assisting these most vulnerable members of our community. The Council has redeployed additional staff, supported by volunteers, into front line areas including:

  • Setting up and managing eight Local Support Hubs from scratch which have provided the platform for a wide range of support for local residents who can’t get out, have no relatives living locally and are self-isolating or are one of the 3,000 people currently ‘shielding’, to avoid potential exposure to the virus, including delivering food, medication and other essential supplies, or just contacting to check they are OK.
  • Increasing NHS capacity by setting up and staffing the new 240-bed care and reablement facility that has been opened at Olympic Lodge.
  • Keeping in contact with our 1,200 most vulnerable residents – making over 500 personal calls a day, 7 days a week, to ensure they have the support they need. This is as well as responding to an additional 474 related calls in April alone
  • Coordinating the supply and distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to care and support workers across the county, including those in independent care homes.
  • Supporting 134 care homes and other care providers to manage Covid-19 – including providing PPE, training, advice and contingencies for any staffing shortages.
  • Providing extensive support to over 200 schools and education settings across the county to ensure they are able to continue to stay open to care for children of key workers and vulnerable children.
  • Working remotely with partners to do the best we can to make sure our children and young people are safe, finding innovative ways to keep in touch with children and families online.
  • Working to ensure that children’s homes are able to stay open and operate safely
  • Providing additional support for our care leavers to ensure they are safe and managing well
  • Supporting families with no recourse to public funds to receive essential food vouchers and funds
  • Working closely with our partner agencies and wider corporate partners to ensure donated resources reach the people in greatest need

In terms of other services we are continuing to provide as many services as we can, whilst complying with government guidance that will keep both our staff and members of the public safe. We keep the delivery of services under constant review and the situation may change in the light of revised guidance.

The current status of service deliver can be viewed on our service update page.

This is a flavour of how other areas of the council are operating and delivering services:

  • Residents can continue to contact the council by phone, email, webchat – as all customer service staff are working from home. We are also keeping residents informed with the daily vlog from Cllr Martin Tett and a twice weekly residents’ eNewsletter going out to 200,000 addresses. Local councillors are being kept up to date with an additional daily briefing and Parish & Town Councils are receiving an additional weekly update.
  • Staff in Household Waste and Recycling Centres are carrying out essential ‘health & safety’ related maintenance while these facilities are closed to the public.
  • We are continuing to collect general household, recyclable and food waste from all households across the county.
  • Additional staff have been redeployed to support the administration and functioning of crematorium services.
  • Road repairs and maintenance is continuing – and taking advantage of the quieter roads.
  • Libraries might be closed but the library service is still functioning. There are a wide range of digital services that have seen take up more than double. Residents who want to join the library service can do so on-line. Some staff are training as a number of libraries will also become Access Points for the new authority. Other staff have been redeployed to front-line services.
  • Significant additional resource has been put into finding suitable accommodation and supporting the physical and mental health needs of rough sleepers and those who would otherwise have been homeless during the current crisis.
  • Significant additional resource is being put into the assessment and distribution of grants to support local businesses impacted by the situation. To date (mid-April 2020) over £60m in grants have been approved and dispersed.
  • Environmental Health continue to offer advice to local businesses, follow up nuisance complaints, issue HMO licences, support other areas of the council with professional advice and help to deliver services to vulnerable residents.
  • The council continues to receive and process planning applications and is undertaking other work including negotiating s106 agreements, which are contracts of obligations entered into between a developer, landowner and the council, and appeals.
  • All licensing services are also continuing to operate, though some adjustments have been made. We are providing advice to licence holders about the operation of their businesses. Taxi licensing continues with 12 monthly MOTs required and new applications interviews using video conferencing. We continue to investigate complaints and undertake enforcement as required.
  • We are continuing to carry out both cleansing and grounds maintenance duties, including emptying of dog/litter bins, town centre cleansing, cleansing and maintenance of parks and large open spaces.

At the same time the council has taken decisions to support people in the community which, together with the impact of the economic crisis, will see council income from other sources fall

  • All car parking charges for car parks and on street car parking have been cancelled;
  • More people are likely to qualify for council tax reduction;
  • Business Rates income is likely to fall – and this will affect the council income stream as it benefits from ‘business rates retention’

While it is hoped that the government will assist councils against additional expenditure and lost income this is by no means certain – so the council urges people who can pay their council tax to continue to do so and for those with difficulties in paying to contact their local office to discuss the support that might be available to them.