MP Accuses Government Of Council Tax Cover Up In East Cambs
PUBLISHED: 18:46 17 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:56 04 May 2010
THE Government has been accused of covering up the fact that hundreds of householders have been paying too much council tax. In East Cambridgeshire alone, 175 properties have been reclassified and moved down a band over the last three years. With the effe
THE Government has been accused of covering up the fact that hundreds of householders have been paying too much council tax.
In East Cambridgeshire alone, 175 properties have been reclassified and moved down a band over the last three years.
With the effects of the expenses row still being felt, Government ministers are now reeling from the repercussions of leaked documents which show they were aware of the banding problem as early as 2005.
Minutes from a meeting of the Valuation Office Agency held more than three and a half years ago, note that a Whitehall official expressed concern at the "knock on implications for billing authorities" and "adverse press coverage" if the tax errors became known.
Red-faced ministers were forced to publish detailed statistics on the changes to council tax bands after Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson submitted a Parliamentary question earlier this year.
They show that in that in the last three years, 190,000 existing homes nationwide have had their council tax band changed. More than 70 per cent (133,985 homes) have moved down a band.
Jim Paice, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, said: "Across the South and East Cambridgeshire District areas, 533 homes have moved down a council tax band as a result of appeals. This proves there are serious and systematic errors in the banding of homes, which ministers have been covering up to save money.
"We now have clear evidence of a council tax cover-up.
Whitehall bureaucrats know that many homes across the country are wrongly banded, but have refused to correct the tax inspectors' errors to save the Government money and to save face."
A spokesman for the VOA denied that the Government had acted to cover up the situation.
He said: "Far from covering up this issue, the Government changed the law to protect taxpayers from backdated bills when properties were improved and sold. In the small minority of cases where a band needed to be reviewed, the VOA has taken action and the Government has protected taxpayers from backdating."
He said that the banding system would not be changed, despite widespread public concern that it is outdated and unfair.
"The Government has made it clear that no revaluation will take place in the life of this Parliament. In the meantime, the Valuation Office Agency continues to maintain the existing council tax lists to ensure new properties are entered into the lists and that it is up to date. There has been no change in this respect since 1993."
He added: "We do think the system is working well in Cambridgeshire and beyond. The VOA is happy to review any banding when there is a good reason to do so but since April last year the number of alterations to existing bandings, both up and down, has amounted to no more than a fraction of one percent of the 22 million homes across England."
INFO: if you are concerned about your council tax band, go to the Valuation Office Agency at www.voa.org.uk.