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There With You: £10m Tower Hamlets council relief fund set up for those struggling to pay the bills

PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:11 21 April 2020

Mayor John Biggs...

Mayor John Biggs... "The fund is to support people with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, especially those suffering from serious financial hardship." Picture: LBTH

LBTH

A £10million emergency fund is being set up by Tower Hamlets Council in response to the coronavirus emergency which includes helping families struggling to pay their council tax and other bills.

All council payment enforcements are being suspended during the coronavirus emergency. Picture: Mike BrookeAll council payment enforcements are being suspended during the coronavirus emergency. Picture: Mike Brooke

Adult social care is getting an £8m boost, with £1m to support the homeless and an extra £500,000 for children’s services.

But it may not be enough, the mayor has revealed, with the authority planning to lobby for more aid to help families in financial hardship.

The new Service Investment Fund, using a £10.5m hand-out from Whitehall, is to cover “additional pressures caused by the Covid-19 emergency” with new reliefs, discounts, grants and reductions to be given to households and businesses.

The emergency package is also being used to help small businesses who can’t meet their business rate bills.

Council launches Service Investment Fund to respond to coronavirus emergency. Picture: Mike BrookeCouncil launches Service Investment Fund to respond to coronavirus emergency. Picture: Mike Brooke

“This extra cash helps residents and businesses,” mayor John Biggs said. “The fund is vital to support people with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, especially the most vulnerable and isolated and those suffering from serious financial hardship.

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“But the council will continue to make the case for further funding from the government in the unprecedented nature of the financial challenge we face.”

The authority is introducing “a more flexible approach” to council tax collection and enforcement, using reliefs, discounts, grants and reductions which are now being made available.

This includes flexible payment and suspending enforcement action, which is being replaced with reliefs, grants and discounts and assistance for those struggling to pay. The self-employed can defer council tax payment up to three months.

The emergency package is also being used to help small businesses who can’t meet their business rate bills and for suppliers and service providers needing a cash flow injection. Those providing services to the council are to continue being paid “regardless of any temporary inability to fulfil their obligations”.

The authority’s corporate director of resources decides who this applies to, under emergency executive powers, and to decide on any contract extensions or variations to its network of suppliers.

A 12-month business rates “holiday” was announced nationally by the Chancellor last month for shops, pubs, theatres, music venues, restaurants and other hospitality and leisure businesses. Registered children’s nurseries are also now eligible for the business rates break for one year and receive 100pc relief.

The retail and leisure reliefs are worth £98m and grants £81m to East End businesses.


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