Outrage as council tax bills land on doormats of Corby’s low income families

Friday weekly brief: Council tax rises hit Corby’s least well off, plus the latest from the Harry Dunn case and the campaign to save trees in Kettering

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A Corby mother says she will have to choose between food and heating after a 200 per cent rise in her council tax bill.

Annemarie Mackenzie is one of hundreds in the town who are being hit by the change to the council tax reduction scheme.

The shadow unitary council - which has been making decisions for the new North Northamptonshire Council which starts up on April 1 - decided to bring all council tax reduction schemes from the existing councils into line from next month. This means Corby’s eligible families will have to pay 25 per cent of the total bill rather than the current eight percent. The overall council tax bills will also go up this year after the unitary council, and police decided to increase the amount residents pay for services.

Annemarie, 53, who has cerebral palsy and lives on benefits, will have to find an extra £20 a month. Her monthly council tax bill has increased from just over £10 to £30. She said:

“I’m lucky at the moment that if once I’ve paid everything I have anything left. At the moment I am robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“I’m going to have to cut down a lot of heating and food. It won’t be so bad in the summer months but in the winter it is going to be a struggle to heat the house.

“Where do they think I am going to get this money from? This is just ridiculous. I know how to budget my money as I’ve been doing it for years, but I feel for these young mums who have got a couple of kiddies.”

Annemarie says she has never been in debt and always pays her bills on time, but fears that now some months she may not be able to pay the council tax bill. She also has a son at university who she helps support and fears that she may have to tell him that he can’t come home as much, as she may not be able to afford to feed them both.

Another Corby mother, 53, who is the carer for her autistic son says the additional monthly cost will have to come out of her son’s funding.

She said: “For people who have money, £20 a month is nothing. But if you haven’t got any money £20 is the difference between eating and heating. There will be more people at the food bank. I am so annoyed.”

Some Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors have been warning about the impact the tax rise will have for many months. A proposal to introduce a hardship fund by Liberal Democrat Cllr Chris Stanbra was voted against at the recent budget meeting. There will be a hardship fund for those living in the West Northants council area.

Councillor Jean Addison, Leader of the new North Northamptonshire Labour Group, who was also on the shadow executive for the new authority, said:

“This really is going to have a major impact on many households who are already under pressure. The Conservatives say the new council’s first ever budget will mean there is an opportunity to focus on the job of delivering services.

“We are only in this position because of the financial mess created by the Conservatives who controlled Northamptonshire County Council. When bad decisions are taken it is our communities who suffer and have to pick up the pieces.”

The impact is far less on those living in Wellingborough and East Northants as the existing council tax reduction scheme level is closer to the incoming 25 per cent reduction level. The new scheme is better for Kettering’s eligible households as currently they have to pay 45 per cent of the full council tax bill.

Elections to the new unitary council take place on May 6.

News from the week in brief

  • It’s been reported this week that the suspect in the Harry Dunn case, Anne Sacoolas, has said she is willing to pay compensation and do community service but is not willing to return to the UK. Harry’s mother Charlotte Charles said: “She needs to come back if she wants to resolve this as she says she does. She needs to face the UK justice system.”

  • The group set up to save trees at the redevelopment of Kettering’s heritage quarter are pushing for the council to have more engagement with the public ahead of the second phase of the project. Emails have been sent to the council and individual councillors raising a series of questions about the next stage.

  • A second Lateral Flow Device Testing Site has opened in Corby to help reduce the spread of Covid in the town. Based at the Hazelwood Neighbourhood Centre, the site will be open between 15:00pm - 18:45pm Monday to Friday and tests must be booked online in advance