By Rebecca Curley, Local Democracy Reporter
Surrey County Council’s leader says there are no plans to suspend council tax or freeze payments as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Cllr Tim Oliver said services such as social workers and teachers were now vital and despite financial help from central government there still needed to be funds to support the work of the local authority.
He did say borough and districts councils have the ability to suspend payments from residents if they wanted to.
But they would still need to meet the financial obligations and payment deadlines set by the county council.
His comments come as some councillors in Surrey say they have been looking at ways to offer council tax relief during the crisis or ways to suspend payments.
A council tax bill in Surrey consists of a percentage for Surrey County Council, the local borough or district council, Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner’s office and in some places a parish or town council.
Cllr Oliver said they could suspend direct debits from residents, but that the borough or district would then have to borrow money to still meet the council tax payment commitments to pay the county council.
He added: “They have that ability, but at their cost. We have to be realistic about this. The government has put in support packages for businesses and individuals.”
He said SCC was doing all it could to support residents through adult services, healthcare, education, care workers and emergency food.
Cllr Oliver added: “There’s more pressure on our services than ever before. As a local authority we will do whatever is necessary.”
He said he was now concerned about the long-term impact of the health pandemic and how the council plans for the period after the crisis is over.
Cllr Oliver said: “I’m concerned about the long term effects of this. The Local Resilience Forum is on top of dealing with the immediate crisis and people need to be reassured there are plans in place and we will be getting to people with food and medicine.
“The mental health issues we really need to keep an eye on.
“When we are through this crisis there will be of course long term consequences and help going forward.”
He said the council was doing all it could to make sure volunteers and frontline staff could move around freely to provide the support.
He added: “It’s times like this that bring out the best in people. All of our staff at the county council have been unbelievable. People are working very long days and in very difficult circumstances but people will get through it.”
Editor’s note: Reigate & Banstead residents can find information about financial support, including help with paying council tax, on a Reigate & Banstead Borough Council coronavirus webpage.
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