Why does Rushcliffe have a low council tax rate?

Council Tax

There are two reasons I think.

  1. It has a low council tax rate but a high council tax take.
  2. It does as little as it can get away with.

I’ll explain this below.

Council tax take

Putting it bluntly Rushcliffe Borough Council (RBC) has relatively more band D houses (that pay more tax) than band A houses, than the rest of the county and most of the rest of the country outside London and the South East. Specifically from this data, I estimate that the ratio of Band A to Band D is 6.6 for Mansfield, 2.1 for Gedling, 12 (!!) for the City, and 0.6 for Rushcliffe. This means that Rushcliffe takes more council tax even though its council tax rate is lower.

I have tried to estimate the amount of money taken in council tax per head. I took the data on tax from the government website and I hope I interpreted it all correctly. (I divided ‘Receipts of council taxes collected during the year’ by population, taken from Google). As I understand it, Mansfield took £566 per person, Gedling took £690, the City took £452, and Rushcliffe took a whopping £788 for every one of us! (The discrepancy isn’t quite a  huge as it appears as all these councils collect Council Tax, but the Boroughs all give quite a lot of what they collect to the County).

So do not try to compare RBC with the City. The City Council is fundamentally a lot poorer that RBC (even before it got saddled with clearing up the effects of INTU going bust).

But isn’t Rushcliffe a very good council?

Rushcliffe is generally pretty good at what it does, but it does the bare minimum it can get away with. You might reasonably say -good, I want slim, efficient local government. This is respectable political position but one I do not share because it only works until something starts to go wrong. Most of us hopefully will never see the issues this causes but many people do, in small or major ways.

It has taken me 4 years to start to realise what it is that Rushcliffe doesn’t do and here are a few examples.

Public Housing

Some years ago Rushcliffe decided to hand over all its housing stock to a Housing Association (HA). After many mergers etc the housing has ended up with Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing. 

There are many Housing Associations and other ‘Registered Providers’ who manage social housing in the UK. I know from personal family experience that some of them are fantastic but others are not. The problem is that unlike Councils, Housing Associations are not accountable. Their senior staff often get large salaries (until they move onto the next directorship) and do not have any long-term interest in the state of their buildings (in the way a private landlord might).

One of the first problems I had to deal with as a councillor was a resident who was having problems with their Housing Association and I have dealt with multiple problems since that time and it has been very difficult at times to get the HA to engage with the problem. I had assumed that RBC would provide some expert support and apply some leverage to encourage the HA to do the right thing. What I found was the RBC said ‘nothing to do with us- keep phoning the HA youself’.

Most new estates include some ‘social housing’ which is managed by a registered provider which don’t even have the infrastructure that a HA does. Occasionally families are vulnerable or in need of some kind of support. In the old days councils had Housing Officers who used to fulfil a role somewhere between landlord and social worker. They could help to resolve issues and call in social services or health services when required. Now RBC say ‘nothing to do with us – call the police’.

Until you or your neighbour needs this service you will not realise it has disappeared.

In the meantime, private rents are going through the roof. Whilst I was canvassing a resident told me they were very upset as their carer was about to be made homeless as they could not afford their new lease. They couldn’t understand how their carer wouldn’t be able to get a council house with a sensible rent. The time has come for RBC to provide more support to residents in social housing in the borough and indeed to look to build its own housing stock (although I am not suggesting that it should start to buy back the housing it sold). If I say anyting like this to RBC at the moment they say ‘nothing to do with use, we don’t own housing’.

Public Realm

On the old days green areas and parks were managed by RBC (or the County when they are adjacent to a highway). In newer estates RBC expect the developers to set up a local management company or similar to run the green spaces. I am aware of a 1970s estate where the developer is (understandably) no longer interested in maintaining green spaces from 50 years ago and does not really respond to requests to clear overgrown spaces. Despite this the same developer is still getting contracts to build new estates in the area, with more new green spaces that need ongoing management.

On new estates green spaces should be managed by RBC or maybe Parish Councils (where appropriate). This will avoid a lot of problems in the near and distant future, make it clear that all green spaces are open to everyone, and be fair to people on new estates who are currently paying council tax to support green spaces around older homes as well as unpredictable management charges.

It is worth noting that RBC have recently insourced Streetwise who do this work. They had outsourced it as an arms-length company but they found that didn’t work and had to bring it back in house.

Leisure Services

Who remembers the old Arena where a lot of space was given over to indoor bowls? What has happened to the bowls? Well RBC offloaded their leisure services to Parkwood. Parkwood wanted to close the bowls down for several reasons, in part because they said it wasn’t making enough money and they wanted the space for something else. This was being decided in the mid-end of lockdown when many of the elderly users of the bowls felt unable to come out and more importantly felt unable to start drumming up new users.  Rushcliffe made no effort to help them to advertise the club and so the club was forced to close, leaving some users absolutely devastated as they felt they had let the club die ‘on their watch’. RBC were not prepared to get involved, they simply said ‘nothing to do with us – ask Parkwood’.

Now consider the community spaces owned by RBC. You probably know that the Tory group at RBC were very keen to sell Lutterell Hall 4 years ago: they are good at knowing the price of everything and value of nothing. This was one of the first issues I got involved with as a candidate. A strong community campaign led to the hall being saved but the council handed over the management to another group. That group has done great things what happens if and when that group moves on? Why couldn’t RBC have done it?

Recently the price of hiring the Pavillion and other council buildings has doubled. I know costs have gone up, but I do wonder if there is a plan to push users out so the council can say there is no need to keep these spaces. RBC could be actively promoting these lovely buildings for events and clubs, rather than apparently thinking it is ‘nothing to do with us if our buildings aren’t being used’.

Rubbish collection

The big one.. why don’t we have door step collection of glass and food waste like neighbouring authorities? Because RBC don’t want to do it.. they effectively say to residents ‘nothing to do with us – sort it out yourselves’.

These Council Policies are political decisions by the Tory group that has been in power for years.. not decisions by Council officers. Things can be different.

13 thoughts on “Why does Rushcliffe have a low council tax rate?

  1. Helen Goodman 3rd May 2023 — 3:54 am

    This is an excellent analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jon Greenwood 3rd May 2023 — 5:56 am

    Thank you for your interesting article Penny
    For what it’s worth I agree in its entirety and look forward to a proactive council that represents the wishes of its constituents from next week

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Annette Beaumont 3rd May 2023 — 7:35 am

    Many thanks for this Penny. Enlightening. It would seem that under the Conservative administration Rushcliffe does little beyond the statutory. They have a responsibility to support both disadvantaged and more fortunate residents by enriching the lives of our whole community.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Helen Goodman 3rd May 2023 — 8:42 am

    There’s another problem with the private estates being responsible for the grass etc round about- they often charge large and rising extra fees to new home owners on top of the council tax they pay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew Seggie 3rd May 2023 — 9:31 am

      I’d be very interested to know about this further. Can we speak to residents of local estates, new and existing and see what their costs are?

      I remarked in our local BLP about how my house is well insulated and therefore energy prices are kept down but it is offset by the fact that (when the developer finishes selling houses on my estate) I’ll be paying maintenance fees on top of my council tax. What’s the point in having the cheapest council tax* if I have to pay on top of that to a company taking profits off the top to maintain my local area!

      *see above

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Andrew Seggie 3rd May 2023 — 9:27 am

    This is a wonderful piece and I’m so grateful to receive it. Thank you so much. How can I get involved in helping you with these pieces and adding to them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cllr Penny Gowland 3rd May 2023 — 9:30 am

      Hi Andrew.. feel free to suggest edits to me.. I would be grateful for corrections in particular. If you want to write your own article feel free.. we can post it on here if you are a member – we can sort out the editorial process (such as there is) after the election! We are always looking for content.


  6. Well done Penny for putting this piece together. RBC is in practice a bare minimum and neo-liberal organisation.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for a well researched article! I made a number of similar suggestions about housing when I was active in the LP and I think a campaign to take back housing and leisure would be popular. I’d certainly vote for you if you were standing in my area!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a well argued and powerful argument. Well done Penny.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Stephen Campion 4th May 2023 — 8:35 pm

    Excellent article.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Norman Randall 4th May 2023 — 8:36 pm

    Isn’t it ironic that they call themselves ‘Conservatives’ and yet they conserve and preserve nothing.
    A sorry litany of Tory parsimony and couldn’t-care-less attitude but a great summary of targeted and specific items for action if ever Labour were in a position of power.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Really well researched and argued, thanks Penny.

    Liked by 1 person

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