Almost a quarter of a million pounds will go towards cost of living support after just 4.1 per cent of taxpayers applied for a Hertsmere rates refund.

The borough council received 1,858 council tax refund applications across the 12 weeks to November 13, 2023 and will dish out a total of £12,500 – an average of £6.73 per household which applied.

The Borehamwood-based authority set aside an open-to-all fund which represented the amount it was due to make from a council tax increase last year.

A total £233,500 – minus around £5,000 for administration costs – will go to Hertsmere Citizens Advice, Hertsmere’s foodbanks, the food parcel charity Give Help Share, and the authority’s own council tax support reserve.

Conservative councillor Morris Bright, leader of the political opposition at Hertsmere Borough Council, branded the scheme “a con”.

He said at a full council meeting held in Bushey on Wednesday, January 24: “The average band D taxpayer in Hertsmere pays £2,075.

Herts Advertiser: The Conservative Party's Cllr Morris Bright.The Conservative Party's Cllr Morris Bright. (Image: Hertsmere Borough Council)

“Labour says, ‘We’ll give you a fiver back’.

“The poorer homes will only get £3.

“Then they say, ‘No.

“‘You’ve got to apply for it, you’ve got to apply for it.’

“We are told that 96 per cent of the 45,000 homes [in Hertsmere] decided not to apply for that money because they wanted it to go to other people.

“That’s a nonsense, isn’t it?”

Cllr Bright added: “Charity is very important and it’s good that money is given to charity.”

The Elstree councillor was the authority’s leader when the authority agreed to increase its share of council tax for the 2023/24 year.

Conservative councillor Lynette Sullivan, of Potters Bar Parkfield, said: “There was a low uptake because we didn’t take the time to tell our residents [about it] through all available channels.

“We didn’t use the old-school method of post or local paper advertising, so those most in need who don’t access social media were not aware of this rebate.”

Labour leaders made a manifesto promise to refund the borough council element of council tax.

The Labour and Liberal Democrat groups ousted the Conservatives after the May 2023 local elections by agreeing to a joint administration.

Average-value band D homes faced a 2023/24 rise of between £5.32 in Aldenham and £5.82 in South Mimms, Ridge, Potters Bar, Bushey and Meriden on the edge of Watford.

Households in Potters Bar received just enough to cover a one-way off-peak Oyster fare to St Pancras, which costs £5.60.

Taxpayers in the lowest value homes (A) faced a smaller rise, so could claim a smaller refund – of between £3.55 and £3.88.

In the highest value homes (H), the maximum rise and refund on offer was £11.64.

The authority only agreed to refund its council tax increase, not fees by other bodies such as Hertfordshire County Council.

Borough leader, Labour’s Cllr Jeremy Newmark, said: “We have chosen, as an administration, to help people and to help charities.”

Herts Advertiser: The Labour Party's Cllr Jeremy Newmark.The Labour Party's Cllr Jeremy Newmark. (Image: Hertsmere Borough Council)

The Borehamwood Cowley Hill representative added: “Many local people have made their choice to forego their refund and enable it to go to the most vulnerable in our society, which we made clear we would do in all of the original communications.

“So no, we won’t be taking lectures from the Tories on a policy that directs help and support to those most in need.

“They’re the people who crashed our economy.

“They’re the people who expect local people to pay the price.”

Cllr Newmark added: “They’re the people who supported Rishi Sunak when he admitted he would take money away from areas like this and redirect it to areas like Tunbridge Wells.”

In 2022, the New Statesman obtained a video of the prime minister telling an audience in Kent that his party “inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone”.

He said: “I started the work of undoing that.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Shenton, who represents Bushey St James and is responsible for the budget in Hertsmere, said: “It’s just not practical to run competitions to decide where we’re going to give this money.

“[Hertsmere Citizens Advice, Hertsmere’s foodbanks and Give Help Share] are existing partners, who we are already aware of, who already have systems in place and maximising the value.

“The idea of finding these three charities and working with them to develop plans is cost effective.

“We can’t be told our scheme isn’t cost effective and then told we need a competition to find a charity partner – it doesn’t work.

“The outcome of this is that thousands of people will be better off who are really struggling with the cost of living in the current financial crisis.


“Most of these people will use volunteers.

“They are far better at delivering these services because they have contacts already and they are trusted by the community.

“This is an effective use of money and it will maximise the bang for our buck.”

Councillors agreed to allocate £60,000 to Citizens Advice, £30,000 to Hertsmere’s foodbanks and £30,000 to Give Help Share.

Some £113,500 will go towards Hertsmere Borough Council’s council tax support reserve, which is used to ease the rates burden for households in need.