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Tax on 'peace and quiet' revealed

London Telegraph | February 18, 2007  
Melissa Kite

Living near a bus stop or corner shop and even enjoying "peace and quiet" will lead to a hike in council tax for householders, under Government plans.

The tax on "nice neighbourhoods" is being planned as part of the council tax revaluation, with proposals expected within weeks.

Secret manuals by the Valuation Office Agency, an arm of HM Revenue and Customs, used in the controversial 2005 council tax revaluation in Wales, reveal that many homes near shops and public transport, with pleasant views and in quiet locations were penalised, with higher council tax bills. There are now plans for the same system to be rolled out across England.

The handbooks were obtained by the Conservatives using parliamentary questions to force the Government to publish them for the first time.

The plan follows revelations in this newspaper that people who live in areas with good schools, clean streets and low crime rates face big increases in their council tax bills.

Home owners and tenants will be charged hundreds, and possibly thousands, of pounds extra if they live in a locality deemed by ministers and officials to be more desirable than others. The rises could be as great as four times, sending some bills from £1,000 to £4,000.

The manual shows that even mobile homes were given higher council tax bills for being located in a quiet spot or near conveniences.

Inspectors were instructed to take photographs of the homes, logging the "convenience to local services, such as shops, bus routes, local communities".

Home improvements and double glazing were taxed, with kitchen units, bathroom suites and central heating driving up bills.

Sophisticated computer equipment is being used in the revaluation of all 21 million homes in England, assessing size, features and location.

Caroline Spelman MP, the shadow local government secretary, said: "Council tax is literally becoming a tax on a civilised society. This is the hallmark of an oppressive and greedy government - finding ever more stealthy ways to tax working families and pensioners."


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