* * * News for 26th February 2007 * * *
All of Medway: 26th February 2007
Warning: Property Revaluation Scam
Secret plans to push properties into higher Council Tax bands uncovered
Forced disclosure of secret manuals used during the recent property revaluation exercise in Wales has revealed that higher council tax bills are being "rigged" for homes near bus stops, shops or with peace & quiet, among numerous other factors. These State documents expose Labour's 'cynical tax on quality of life'. This is an early warning to all of us of what could be in store for Medway and other parts of Britain.
Ministerial denials of Gordon Brown's plans to tax nice neighbourhoods in the forthcoming council tax revaluation in England were discredited when the secret manuals, never before placed in the public domain, were revealed a few days ago.
They show that many homes with features like being near shops and public transport, with pleasant views or with "peace and quiet" were penalised with higher council tax bills. Building on the experience in Wales, the Treasury have rolled out an even more sophisticated neighbourhood tax in Northern Ireland for this April's revaluation, with plans for the system to be used comprehensively in the looming council tax revaluation in England.
- Nice neighbourhoods TAXED: The official taxmen's manual shows that as a pilot for the new neighbourhood tax system, mobile and park homes were given higher council tax bills for features such as "convenience of public transport facilities", "peace and quiet", "shop providing basic groceries", "pleasant views" and "good security". The inspectors were instructed to take photographs of the home, logging the "convenience to local services, such as shops, bus routes, local communities." Conservatives have labelled such moves as a "costly and cynical tax on people's quality of life", and your ward colleagues agree.
- Home improvements and double glazing TAXED: Revaluation documents for all homes in the exercise reveal that kitchen units, bathroom suites, double glazing and central heating were recorded by inspectors to help drive up bills—especially if the homes were on the cusp of a higher council tax band. The inspectors were told to make special attention to register "special benefits" such as an "enclosed garden, patio, and conservatory".
So, there you have it. As this is a national government driven exercise, and it is their (formerly secret) rules that are outlined above, our local Members of Parliament need to challenge the way this exercise would be conducted here in Medway, if they are inclined to do so. As they are Labour MPs, it seems unlikely that they will go against their own party's government, but we must all try. As one such move, I intend to bring a formal Motion on this before the full Medway Council at its next regular meeting, on 19th April, to bring the weight of the whole Council to bear on our three MPs.
- State officials MISLED householders: It has now come to light local residents were systematically misled in the revaluation exercise. Householders were told of inspections and forcible entry of their homes if they did not fill in intrusive questionnaires about every aspect of their homes. In sending out the questionnaires, the standard letters from the taxmen promised there would be "no impact" on council tax bills and the purpose of the revaluation was "not to increase the overall yield". Yet contrary to Government claims at the time, Labour now admits that tax revenues soared as a result of the revaluation, with four times as many homes moving up a band as down.