Jan 06 2007

Secret council tax revaluation plans to tax homes in Harrow – Exposed

Tax handbook blows away Government spin doctor denials

Secret Government plans for tax hikes on family homes – including how they look – have been exposed after Conservatives forced Gordon Brown’s council tax inspectors to publish their explosive tax revaluation handbook. This new evidence blows away denials from Government spin doctors that there is no ‘stealth’ council tax revaluation underway.

  • Taxed for the look of your home: The 80 page manual – by Gordon Brown’s Valuation Office Agency – is illustrated with photographs of every type of home, including architectural styles; brick, thatch or stone fascias; sash windows; age periods and house dimensions. The tax men are instructed to grade individual homes with particular computer codes. These codes are then entered into an American ‘Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal’ database which will calculate how much extra tax that home should pay based on its features.
  • Taxed for your cul-de-sac, patio or parking space: On top of this, ‘Value Significant’ property features that must be coded by the tax inspectors to calculate council tax bills include: living in a quiet road or cul-de-sac; near to convenient public transport; garden; patio; roof terrace; balcony; sea or hill views; near a field or golf course; conservatory; double glazing; and number of bedrooms, bathrooms, garage spaces and parking spaces.
  • Stealth revaluation now underway: Despite the Government claims on the “postponement” of the council tax revaluation in England, Labour Ministers have given explicit authorisation for the council tax revaluation database to go ahead after the announcement of the postponement. Taxpayers’ money is being spent on refining the next-generation technology which has been bought in from secretive American contractors. Gordon Brown has valued the computer software alone at £6 million. The ‘Big Brother’ database also allows for the imposition of a house price tax, now being piloted in Northern Ireland from April.

Councillor Bob Blackman said:

“Claims by Whitehall spin doctors that the council tax revaluation in England was postponed have been exposed as a complete sham. Labour Ministers have given their express authority for every home in Harrow to be sized up, and every home improvement or sign of a nice neighbourhood, to be photographed, catalogued and taxed by Gordon Brown’s inspectors.

“I fear council tax bills will rise purely for living in a quiet road, being near to a bus stop, or having a parking space. People who rent will be taxed just as much as those who own their home.

“Labour Ministers and Gordon Brown believe they have the right to intrude on people’s privacy to tax your home and punish those who live in nice neighbourhoods. But Conservatives will scrap these revaluation plans and abolish the tax inspectors’ rights of entry. We will stand up for people’s property and privacy.”

Notes to Editors

SECRET COUNCIL TAX REVALUATION HANDBOOK

Over the last year, the Government has repeatedly tried to block the publication of the handbook that council tax inspectors are planning to use for the council tax revaluation. The document entitled ‘Dwellinghouse Coding: An Illustrated Guide” was produced by the Valuation Office Agency, an arm of Gordon Brown’s Inland Revenue. When asked via Parliamentary Questions, Ministers refused to release the document on supposed ‘privacy’ grounds, but this has been obtained now by Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act.

EXAMPLE OF THE HANDBOOK CODES – SIZING UP HOMES TO BE TAXED

Value Significant Features

Code

Agricultural Property – main farmhouse

AM

Agricultural Property – other house or cottage

AO

Agricultural Property – temporarily vacant

AV

Agricultural Property – worker’s cottage

AW

Balcony – up to 3 sq m

BA

Balcony – over 3 sq m and up to 5 sq m

BB

Balcony – over 5 sq m and up to 7 sq m

BC

Balcony – over 7 sq m

BD

Composite – boarding/guest house

CB

Composite – hotel

CH

Composite – industrial

CI

Composite – not known not including agricultural

CN

Composite – office

CO

Composite – public house

CP

Composite – shop

CS

Shared drive

DS

Functional / economic factor

EF

Facility – adjoining conservation area

FC

Facility – adjoining golf course

FG

Facility – adjoining other ‘positive’ facility / amenity

FO

Facility – adjoining park

FP

Garden – garden where not usual

GG

Garden – no garden where usual

GN

Penthouse

HO

Leisure facility – equestrian, paddock only

LE

Leisure facility – equestrian, including stables

LF

Leisure facility – swimming pool, outdoor

LR

Leisure facility – swimming pool, indoor

LS

Leisure facility – tennis court

LT

Quality – atypical for Group or Type

NA

Patio – where value significant

OS

Plot size – large for Group or Type in locality

PL

Plot size – small for Group or Type in locality

PS

Roof Terrace – up to 3 sq m

QA

Roof Terrace – over 3 sq m and up to 8 sq m

QB

Roof Terrace – over 8 sq m and up to 15 sq m

QC

Roof Terrace – over 15 sq m

QD

Restrictive covenants and other (non-agricultural) tied dwellings

RC

Condition at sale

SC

Traffic – main / busy road

TM

Traffic – quiet road or cul-de-sac

TQ

Jan 05 2007

Calls to tackle ‘rip off’ gas bills and rising cost of living

Working people and pensioners finding it harder to make ends meet

As blustery weather moves into Britain, Councillor Bob Blackman Assemblyman for Brent & Harrow added his voice to calls to tackle the soaring cost of gas bills, and criticised the rising cost of living under the current Government.

Conservative leader, David Cameron, has recently highlighted the escalating rise in living costs under Labour, and called for an official Office of Fair Trading probe into the ‘rip off’ prices still being charged for domestic gas – despite recent falls in wholesale prices. A new web campaign has also been launched at www.sort-it.co.uk, highlighting ‘live for less’ tips on money-saving.

Bob Blackman explained.

“The cost of living is going up and this Government is making things worse. People across (area) are finding it harder to make ends meet. Those things that are under Government control, like tax, are going up. Meanwhile, when it comes to items not controlled by the government but where they could make a difference, like utility bills, they do nothing.

“For vulnerable groups, such as pensioners, who spend relatively more on council tax and energy bills, the cost of living is rising ever faster. And with inflation running higher than average pay rises, real take-home pay is falling. Conservatives are standing up for working people and pensioners – to keep the cost of living down and the quality of life up.”

Notes to Editors

Gas prices have risen by 71% since 2003. Electricity prices have risen by more than a quarter in the last year alone (source: Office for National Statistics). The average working family now pays £660 a year in gas and electricity, up from £460 just two years ago.

Despite falling wholesale prices, four gas companies increased their prices by 12.2% on 1 January, and British Gas are increasing prices on their Click website by 12.5% on 8 January.

Annual energy price inflation is almost twenty times that OECD average. Only Norway, New Zealand, and Hungary have higher energy price inflation (OCED statistics, 9 January 2007).

Conservatives have launched a campaign website to highlight the high cost of living, with tips on how to cut costs: http://www.sort-it.co.uk/

Released by: Bob Blackman

Date: 8th February 2007

Jan 04 2007

Shocking new figures expose true extent of muggings on teenagers

Young people face grim risk of being mugged for mobiles and MP3 players

Councillor Bob Blackman, expressed concern at new figures which have exposed the true extent of youth-on-youth crime. The shocking statistics were obtained by Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act.

  • Across the country, a third of all muggings last year were on 11-16 year olds. They are seen as easy targets by muggers seeking mobile phones and MP3 players. In turn, 11-16 year olds were responsible for 40 per cent of all robberies.
  • The Government, despite claiming street crime is a top priority, does not properly monitor the level of youth muggings.
  • There were a projected 113,000 robberies on 11 to 16-year-olds last year across England & Wales. This is equivalent to over 600 muggings a day for each of the 195 school days.

Bob Blackman remarked,

“These new statistics reveal a worrying area of crime that has gone unrecognised. This is likely to be the tip off the iceberg given how few crimes are actually reported.

“Secondary school students and their parents will immediately recognise the picture of life these crime figures paint. Having mobiles and ipods routinely stolen, being marched to the cashpoint, seeing their friends mugged – this is the everyday life for too many of (area’s) teenagers.

“Youth-on-youth crime could be a serious long-term problem and the Government are not properly monitoring it. I believe young people have a right to expect violent crime against them to be taken seriously by this Government.”

Notes to Editors

Statistics were compiled from a series of Freedom of Information Act requests to individual police forces about robberies by Conservative youth spokesman, Justine Greening MP.

  • 40 per cent of all muggers (offenders detected for ‘personal robberies’) were aged 11-16 in 2005-06 in England and Wales.
  • In total, of the police forces which responded and provided comparative figures, 23,698 muggings on 11-16 year olds were recorded by the police last year – equivalent to 122 school children recorded as mugged every school day.
  • The British Crime Survey (based on interviews of people), estimates that only 21% of robberies are actually reported to the police (Home Office, Crime in England and Wales 2005/06, Table 4.01).
  • This would suggest that actual muggings on 11-16 yr olds last year could be as high as 113,000 in the areas which responded. This suggests over 600 muggings every school day.

Some police authorities refused to provide the information.

Police force (2005-06) 

Total personal robberies reported 

Number of personal robberies reported on 11-16 yrs  

Estimated number of actual offences on 11-16 yrs (assuming under-reporting rate of 21%) 

Victims aged 11-16 yrs as % of total recorded personal robberies 

Avon and Somerset

1,902

437

2,083

23%

Bedfordshire

1,268

482

2,294

38%

Cambridgeshire

No data

No data

No data

No data

Cheshire

474

114

542

24%

Cleveland

No data

No data

No data

No data

Cumbria

90

19

90

21%

Derbyshire

713

No data

No data

No data

Devon and Cornwall

488

122

581

25%

Dorset

239

55

262

23%

Durham

228

36

174

16%

Dyfed-Powys

No data

No data

No data

No data

Essex

No data

No data

No data

No data

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