Southport MP Damien Moore says he is appalled by the “abominable” decision to demand an extra 4.99% in Council Tax from local families as they struggle to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Labour-led Sefton Council last night voted to pile more tax onto hard working local people, on top of the 4.99% increase they levelled last year.
Much of the cash raised will go towards paying for the Labour council’s doomed purchase of the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, which has lost £1.5million this year.
At the Sefton Council Budget meeting last night Labour voted for the 4.99% Council Tax increase while Conservative councillors voted against.
Southport Conservative MP Damien Moore said: “At a time when families are under huge financial pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the decision to impose nearly 5% rises on people’s Council Tax bills is truly abominable.
“This will mean an extra £72.44 a year for people paying a Band C Council Tax bill.
“This is particularly galling after this incompetent Labour Council bought the Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle at a cost of £32.5million.
“This huge waste of money has lost £1.5million this year alone, so people in Southport are now having to pay for the mistakes of councillors in Bootle.”
Sefton Council refused to comment on Mr Moore’s statement when approached by OTS News. A full open later published by Council Leader Ian Maher is available here.
Mr Moore continued: “Between 2017 and 2019 the value of the Strand shopping centre fell by £5million. I dread to think what it would be worth now – not very much.
“Local residents will be paying for this blunder for years to come.
“In Southport, the Labour-led Sefton Council is destroying local businesses and livelihoods by taking away vital car parking spaces in Southport town centre by imposing unnecessary cycle lanes instead.
“The removal of parking spaces on Hoghton Street alone will cost the council £137,000 in lost revenue each year.
“In contrast, this Government is investing substantially in Southport, with £37.5million this week announced via Southport Town Deal to bring new jobs, new investment and new hope.
“The Government also announced an extension of the furlough scheme; Restart grants of up to £18,000 to get our retail, hospitality, leisure and personal care businesses going again; the extension of the Business Rates holiday; continuing our Stamp Duty cut; extending Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits; a brand new 95 per cent mortgage guarantee for prospective homebuyers; and many more measures too.
“For the Labour-led Sefton Council in Bootle to demand an extra 4.99% in Council Tax from hard working local families this year to pay for their mistakes over the Strand shopping centre in Bootle and their incompetence over the cycle lanes in Southport shows just how out of touch they are with reality.”
Sefton Conservative Group Leader Cllr Tony Brough was among Conservative councillors who voted against the controversial Budget.
He said: “West Orchards shopping centre in Coventry that eight years ago was valued at £37 million was sold earlier this year for £4.9 million, setting alarm bells ringing among lenders, landlords and local authorities nationwide.
“The purchase of the Strand Shopping Centre by Sefton Council for £32.5m in 2017 reveals a very poor return on investment.
“Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors valued the Strand at £27.2million in 2019 – £5m less than the purchase price two years earlier. That valuation when laid against the actual 2021 sale of the West Orchards Shopping centre indicates that the Institute’s valuation to be grossly inaccurate.
“My investigations reveal that unrecoverable back rents and service charges for the Strand tenants are estimated by Sefton Council to be £2.9m and rising.
“The decision taken by Sefton’s Labour Group to buy the Strand Shopping Centre has created an unnecessary financial burden for every Sefton Council taxpayer.
“The £1.5million loss through the Strand shopping centre this year equates to a 1% reduction in Sefton’s Council Tax burden; £1.5m that could have been spent on Children’s Services; £1.5m that could have been spent on Adult Social Care.
“There is no justification in demanding higher Council Tax bills to fund commercial debt, the losses attributed to the Strand.
“The fault lies quite squarely with incompetent management by a group of Labour councillors who are quite clearly are out of their depth.”