Homeowners face council tax increases - claim

Tuesday, 25 August, 2009

THOUSANDS of homeowners in Suffolk and Essex face paying an extra £300 a year in council tax if they own a patio or enjoy a scenic view, it has been claimed.

The Conservatives claim leaked Government documents show how a number of home features - including parking spaces, patios and scenic views - are being recorded by home valuation inspectors and could be used to re-calculate council tax bands.

According to the Tories, the impact of such a revaluation might cost the average Band D homeowner £323 extra in Babergh, £321 in Colchester, £324 in Forest Heath, £347 in Ipswich, £325 in St Edmundsbury, £320 in Suffolk Coastal, £323 in Mid Suffolk and £319 in Tendring.

The area's MPs last night rounded on the Government, accusing it of targeting family homes to 'fill the deep black hole in Britain's ruined public finances'.

But the Tory claims were last night fiercely opposed by the Valuation Office Agency, which said there was nothing sinister in what it was doing and said home improvements or a pleasant view were unlikely to lead to a property being re-banded for council tax.

David Ruffley, Bury St Edmunds MP, said: 'It is disgraceful that the Government is thinking of taxing people for looking out onto an attractive view from their own windows or having a nice patio.

'I strongly oppose the Government's tax raising plans and their allowing council tax inspectors the right of entry into my constituents' homes.'

'Moving up from council tax band D to band E as a result of this 'patio tax' will cost my constituents in Mid Suffolk and St Edmundsbury well over £300 more a year on their council tax bills.'

He added that when Wales underwent a council tax revaluation in 2005, four times as many homes went up a band rather than went down.

Tory MP for Harwich, Douglas Carswell, said he thought the revaluation methods were 'grossly unfair' and added that he would like to see the council tax abolished.

'This discriminates against people who have improved their homes,' he said. 'This is just another example of how unfair the current system is.'

Reg Hartles, of Protest Against Council Tax in Suffolk, said: 'You just can't imagine how they come up with this sort of idea - it is ridiculous. It seems they look for any excuse to increase the tax you pay. It is all ludicrous - year's ago you would not have dreamed of someone thinking about these things, never mind actually talking about them.'

Tim Eden, director of council tax at the Valuation Office Agency, said suggestions that tax bands might be increased to reflect features such as a patio were 'simply not true and are misleading the public'.

'When properties were first placed in bands in 1993, features that make up the value of the property were taken into account, these included size, type and location.

'It follows that a council tax band inherently reflects features, both good and bad, that go to make up value. The implication that there is something sinister about the Valuation Office Agency storing property details for council tax purposes is just nonsense. We have a statutory duty to keep accurate and up-to-date records on all homes in England and Wales to underpin a fair and even basis for property-based taxation.

'The majority of changes made to properties will have no affect on a banding and, where a change is significant enough to support a change of band, this would only happen if and when the property subsequently sold.'

The current Band D property council tax bill, the amount that bill would be if it was bumped up to a Band E property:

Babergh £1,453 £1,776

Colchester £1,445 £1,766

Forest Heath £1,458 £1,782

Ipswich £1,563 £1,910

Mid Suffolk £1,454 £1,777

St Edmundsbury £1,463 £1,788

Suffolk Coastal £1,441 £1,761

Tendring £1,436 £1,756

Waveney £1,410 £1,724