Conservatives oppose Greenwich Council's new ‘Tenant Tax’

Conservative councillors have criticised Greenwich Council plans for a new ‘Tenant Tax’ of £49 a year, as Labour councillors voted to consult on a new service charge for around 23,000 council tenants living in the borough’s estates from February 2017.

The move, approved by Labour councillors at the last Cabinet meeting, will see council tenants given 28 days to respond to the council’s plans to raise £2.05 million through the new service charge, separate to rent payments, which would be increased year on year. Council papers have revealed that nearly 10,000 tenants will end up paying an extra £49 a year by 2019/20 because of the charge, with around 13,000 further tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit potentially facing the tax should their incomes increase in the future.

The new charge comes as the Conservative government introduced a 1% reduction in council rents starting in April, which will save Greenwich council tenants £12.26 a week or £637 a year by 2019/20. Conservative councillors have accused Labour councillors of trying to “claw back” part of this saving by stealth by introducing the service charge, which is not subject to the government’s 1% rent reduction policy.

The Conservative Group on the council is urging council tenants to object to the move during the 28-day consultation process, which is expected to begin later this month.

Councillor Matt Hartley, Leader of Greenwich Conservatives, said: “This new Tenant Tax is the product of Labour councillors’ worst instincts – tweaking the rules in a blatant attempt to get around the government’s rent reduction policy, and leaving tenants worse off.

“As a result of Labour’s plan, nearly 10,000 tenants will now be paying £49 extra a year by 2019/20 – and the council has said that the actual increase could be even higher. This comes on top of their decision to increase Council Tax in April.

“While the Conservatives in government are reducing rents for council tenants, Labour councillors seem intent on raising taxes at every opportunity. We will be urging them to reconsider this latest plan.

“In the meantime, it is crucial that as many tenants as possible object to the service charge in the consultation, to help force them to reconsider.”

Greenwich Council increased its share of Council Tax by 1.99% in April – the maximum amount allowed in law without putting its plans to a public vote in a referendum. The move, opposed by Conservative councillors in February’s council meeting, came despite the council being left £20.8m better off than it had planned for as a result of government announcements on local government funding.