Speech delivered in support of my Motion at the full Council meeting on 19th April 2007
It has recently been revealed that the Labour Government‘s property revaluation strategy has been rigged to force up official valuations for council tax purposes by including new "features" such as: proximity to shops, public transport facilites and "peace and quiet".
These and many more were recently used as excuses to push up valuations in Wales, and it has come to light that this concept will be extended even further in future revaluations, including in Medway. Many of our residents would then have their council tax band raised by at least one band, and possibly two. Even at Medway‘s low rates, the effect of a Band C property going up to Band E would mean an increase of nearly £400 per year!
This Council therefore condemns this dishonest and underhand practice by the Labour Government, and calls upon them to withdraw this very dubious and secretive additonal stealth tax and return to the previous straightforward and honest valuation methodology.
This Motion stems from revelations concerning details of a pilot property revaluation exercise that was recently carried out in Wales, and the secretive way it was handled. After a long battle by Parliamentary Conservatives to get the then-secret Manual for valuation inspectors brought into the public domain, Madam Mayor, this has now succeeded and the truly disgraceful nature of the whole scheme has become known.
The first shock was that properties were now being valued with a wide range of new factors being used as an excuse to push up rateable values. Such matters as being near to shops or a ‘bus stop would mean an increase in one‘s property valuation. Even "a nice view" or "peace and quiet" would pump up the valuation, Madam Mayor. We have heard in this Chamber before about the politics of envy, and we have also heard about the numerous stealth taxes introduced by the Labour Government during the past ten years. This is both of those nasty practices put together in one package, Madam Mayor!
Perhaps even more shocking than the possible hikes in Council Tax banding that could be imposed on our residents, Madam Mayor, is the power of entry granted to inspectors who are to be tasked with the property revaluations. I have warned in Council and committees of the Soviet-style kind of government we now have in this country, and nowhere has this become more apparent than with this initiative. Yes, I was right all along, and others on this side of the Chamber have also recognised this and spoken up.
Now, Madam Mayor, with the news that the Wales pilot is to be extended to include nearly a hundred of these ”value adders• by the time the scheme is rolled-out in England, it is very obvious that far more properties than in Wales will be cranked up at least one Council Tax band, and many will go up two Bands. Thus the figures I included in my Motion are very realistic indeed!
Even with our very low Council Tax rates, relative to the rest of the country, Madam Mayor, many households would find themselves faced with a bill that would go up by almost four hundred pounds every year.
This whole business really does need to be brought to public attention, Madam Mayor, and this Council needs to be one of the agencies to both expose and oppose this insidious, devious and downright nasty way to extract even more tax money from the public-at-large.
I therefore commend the Motion to all Members and ask for their support. Failure to do so would be seen by Medway‘s residents as condoning the practices and methods I have outlined. We must carry this Motion tonight! .
Thank you very much, Madam Mayor.
John M Ward (Councillor, Rochester South and Horsted)