The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

30 October 2006

What a lovely neighborhood

And Her Majesty's Government plans to make bloody sure it costs you:

Families who live in desirable areas face massive increases in their council tax bills under plans being drawn up by Labour, it was revealed. Homeowners in affluent neighbourhoods with good schools, low crime rates and clean streets could be charged thousands of pounds extra than those in more run down places.

And how will they do this? By computer, of course:

The software, which will be used in the forthcoming revaluation of all 21 million homes in England, contains astonishingly detailed data on the number of households, even those who have pets, wear contact lenses or are vegetarian.

It allows inspectors to put a precise value on each home, based not only by its size and features, but its location.

The move is a further blow to homeowners who are facing the prospect of being fined for refusing to let council tax inspectors come into their homes to photograph any improvements.

Campaigners have warned that bills could rise by as much as four times in areas which are deemed 'desirable' — sending some bills spiralling from £1,000 to £4,000.

Under the current tax system, which dates back to 1993, the council tax, as it's called, has eight brackets or "bands": the highest band, H, is for structures valued (in 1991, the standardized base) at more than £320,000. Each governing council levies at its own rate, but the bands are consistent throughout England; Wales and Scotland have slightly different bands.

It should be noted that in 1991, when the bands were set, the average English home sold for £73,000; it's now over £180,000.

And there's this:

Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, the chairman of the Local Government Association, said [last year] that wholesale reform was needed of how local government was funded. Council tax was flawed and revaluation would only add to the problem, he said. "It cannot be sensible to base a property tax on house prices in 1991 but we do not believe that people should be penalised because their homes have increased in value during the past decade."

A few local notes:

  • Leonard Sullivan, assessor for Oklahoma County, says that by the end of this year every single piece of real property in the county will have been visually inspected by his office. So far as I can tell, they were here in 2003, slightly before I moved in; state law requires a reinspection every four years.

  • Taxes on the palatial Surlywood estate for this year come to $824 (£443).

  • Online records go back only to 1993, at which time the tax was $253 (£133).

  • During those years, assessed value (11 percent of market value) increased from $3702 to $8508, subject to a cap law in some of those years.

Much as I feel for the Brits, or indeed any overtaxed folks, they're apparently not getting hit with anything we haven't seen Stateside.

But now this is interesting:

The Tories warned that if it was introduced in England, average bills would soar by £436 a year, with middle-class households in the South and South East worst hit.

Several councils would see average annual bills rise by more than £1,000. In many Labour heartlands, by contrast, average bills would fall, because house price rises have been less dramatic since the last national revaluation.

Make of that what you will.

Posted at 7:35 AM to Dyssynergy

This is caused by the banding of Property. At the moment more than 60 percent of properties in the North East are in Band A, but in the South that figure is only 3 per cent.
My little two bedroomed home would fall into either band A or B up there but here falls in to band E. There are rich people living in the North and poor people living in the South, so as long as banding is retained, council tax can never be fair.

Isitfair, the Nationwide Campaign for the Reform of the Council Tax System

Posted by: Christine at 9:44 AM on 30 October 2006

I have since read Isitfair's proposal, which calls for the abolition of the council tax outright; the £20 billion or so in revenue could be made up, they say, by minor adjustments to the income tax and the VAT.

Posted by: CGHill at 10:32 AM on 30 October 2006