Monday, February 19, 2007

Council Tax hikes for "peace and quiet"

According to this morning's Telegraph, there are plans to base Council Tax valuation and rates on whether or not you live near a bus stop, or local conveniences, or have peace and quiet. The bottom line of the report is that if you live in a sink estate full of drugs and crime you won't have to pay as much Council Tax as someone who lives in a nice house, on a nice street, where the kids don't beat you up for looking at them funny.

If this is true it is an absolute expression of the politics of envy. However, is it true? Ever since the news broken that Prescott might charge higher Council Tax to people with nice views my instinctive reaction has been that the story is bollocks.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't put it past the Government to try it, but I also think that they're politically astute enough to know that a policy like this would be the guaranteed quickest way to drive millions of votes away. Votes that, as we all know, they need.

I'm not sure what anyone else might think of this? If I recall correctly Sir Michael Lyons report on Council Tax is due some time very soon (after being delayed for so long), which makes me wonder whether this is idea is just one part of that report which the Government will reject as an idea.

I could be wrong of course, but that rarely happens these days (famous last words). If I am wrong I promise to eat my hat. *

Update: I've just the papers on the way into work. Seems this is some sort of subjective advice in a guide for those valuing property for revaluation in Wales and Nortehrn ireland and thus might be applied in England. The only question I have is, surely valuing property should be done by looking in the local estate agents window?
* I will have to buy one first.


Raedwald said...

I think the comment on this story is, as you suggest, 'to a point, Lord Copper.'

The original banding assessment for council tax was carried out by estate agents cruising the streets in vehicles and designating whole terraces band D or whatever. So neighbouring homes that could differ by £100k in value (here in London) are in the same tax band. As an exercise in good governance a mass property revaluation isn't in itself a bad idea. Areas that were 'cool' when the banding was first done and are now 'hot' would also be picked up.

And if all other things are equal, it shouldn't make that much difference. That is, if the overall amount of council tax collected by each authority remains constant.

I also think you've hit the nail on the head with the implications of Lyons. Council tax only makes up about 20% of a council's income. While this gearing means that good (i.e. Tory) councils can reduce council tax by 50% but only suffer an overall 10% loss of income, the converse goes for those like moi living in high-spending labour boroughs.

As for what local tax policy should be, consider this.

Communities with high levels of civic engagement and 'social capital' have lower crime rates, higher employment rates, better maintained streets and gardens, better local primary schools, better parks and tend to retain local facilities. People in such areas have better health, are happier, vote more, and are more likely to volunteer or get involved . As a result, such communities are desirable places to live and property prices will be higher.

Overall, such communities, which place fewer demands on national resources at every level, and contribute to the strength of civil society, should be rewarded and encouraged.

I can't find the source, but it was estimated that 90% of police resources, and about 80% of health and social service resources, and a disproportionate amount of council funded resources go into 'council estate' type areas, with huge numbers of welfare-dependent inhabitants (who don't pay council tax anyway - the rest of us pay it for them). These non-communities need the stick and not the carrot.

Any revision of local taxes that perversely rewards these areas, and penalises the good and responsible areas, will do nothing but accelerate the slide to national self-destruction.

Apols for the length of this Dizzy.

dizzy said...

Apology not accepted! Don't do it again! ;-)

SimonW said...

Having moved into a new flat last autumn I had a visit from the valuation officer who had to measure the floor area which is used as part of the valuation process. It is not just the sale price. (This was Wales)

kinglear said...

It's already happening in NI. But as you say Dizzy, it might be along the lines of " 8,000" post offices to close" No no, we have "saved" 5,000 as we are only closing 3,000. Goebbels was very good at this sort of manipulation of the population.

Thomas B said...

"The bottom line of the report is that if you live in a sink estate full of drugs and crime you won't have to pay as much Council Tax as someone who lives in a nice house, on a nice street"

I take the point about valuing whole terraces by estate agents, but in principle, if the amount of council tax is set by the value of your house, you already pay more for a "nice house on a nice street" as it's going to command a higher price.

Anonymous said...

Should this be the case, I can foresee the local kids getting onto a nice little earner, being paid to hang about menacingly whenever an inspector is in the area.