The Inside Croydon website can be an excellent source of community news. But at times it can be highly partisan and yesterday's post on Council Tax collection, which I want to belatedly respond to, was a good example.
The key section of the post was as follows:
"Here are some facts: last year, Croydon failed to collect more than £40 million in council tax. That is more uncollected than any other council in the country. That’s according to the ConDem government, a government minister, a Whitehall department , the local government association and CIPFA".
It is true that CIPFA has published data about Council Tax collection and bad debt provision.
But it is not true that "last year Croydon failed to collect more than £40 million in Council Tax". The actual figure, according to CIPFA, is just under £6.9 million.
£6.9 million is not "more uncollected than any other council in the country". Eight London boroughs and metropolitan districts have higher figures. And in any case the amount of money a council is owed isn't a fair comparison - councils with more money to collect will self-evidently be owed more money even if they collect the same percentage of what they are owed as everyone else. Because of our large population and relatively high property prices, only four London boroughs and metropolitan districts have more to collect than Croydon. The fair way to compare councils is to look at the proportion of the Council Tax due that they collect. On this basis, Croydon's performance is in line with the London average. Now I am sure my colleagues on the Council would want us to be better than average but it is certainly not true that we are the worst in the country or anywhere near it - as this Parliamentary answer confirms. Inside Croydon seeks to rubbish the argument that you should focus on percentage collected rather than amount outstanding, describing it as "self-satisfied reductive logic". Now, I know the auther of the blog is a keen Eagles fan so let's use a football analogy. If Team A has played 40 games and conceded 11 goals, while Team B has only played 20 games and conceded 10 goals, would he really describe Team B as having a superior defence because in numerical terms it has conceded fewer goals?
So where does the £40 million figure come from? This is in the CIPFA data but it is nothing to do with what the Council failed to collect last year. It is the amount of money the Council has set aside to cover bad debts. It is true that it is higher than for any other London borough or metropolitan district, which reflects the prudent approach this administration is taking to managing the Council's finances.
You can argue that they are being over-cautious and you can argue that we should aspire to be better than the average when it comes to Council Tax collection. But to claim that Croydon has the worst record in the country has no foundation whatsoever and I hope Inside Croydon will now set the record straight.