View Article  Council tax makes another contribiution to the Local Government Pension Scheme

Isitfair

Council Tax Reform

A Non Party Political Nationwide Campaign 

More revelations regarding the Local Government Pension Scheme and the cost of redundancies (by Janet Kelly with a small contribution by me)

Some of you may have read articles in the press recently on the subject of Councils' reserves. Councils are advised to keep sufficient sums of money in reserve so that they have a financial cushion to meet sudden unexpected costs. We call it saving for a rainy day. The size of some of these reserves is undoubtedly questionable, but on the other hand perhaps if central Government had thought along those lines a few years ago the country as a whole would not be in such a mess!

Whilst some Councils have managed somehow to increase their reserves (how, in these cash strapped times - perhaps these particular councils are given too much in the way of grants?), some are drawing on theirs. But these reserves are not a "bottomless pit". When they are gone, they are gone. We believe it is absolutely right on these "rainy days" for reserves to be used to ease pressure on services. And when the Government's freeze grants cease they will undoubtedly have a part to play in keeping council tax down. We are concerned, however, that some Councils are digging into these reserves to fund redundancy schemes which are far in excess of statutory requirements. 

One thing that this Government must do is to insist that Councils renegotiate the terms of redundancy, so that this debacle can never reoccur. What may have seemed fair years ago, when salaries compared to the private sector were low, is now just an unacceptable ‘perk’ for local government employees. Things have got to change – not next year or the year after but now.  We as taxpayers can no longer afford to maintain these levels of payments.  Councils have paid and will be paying out thousands of pounds to employees, some of whom will never have to work again.  But how many of those receiving extortionate pay outs are being re-employed as consultants or moving directly into another post elsewhere?  We believe that some of these people have taken "flexible early retirement" only to be re-employed on a part time basis, this cosy arrangement enabled by enormous "strain" payments into the LGPS (see below).  What will happen in a couple of years time? Will these employees be able to apply for a full time job, with the same council? You tell me, I feel it is quite possible under the existing rules.

Isitfair is concerned that the public is not made aware of the full costs of redundancies. The up front payments are mind boggling in themselves, but over the last few months we have been trying to shine some light into the secretive and complex world of "strain charges". Those staff made redundant at the age of 55 or over are entitled to draw their full, unreduced pension straight away, with the result that their pensions are drawn earlier and for a longer period than for normal retirements. Employers (ie, us) are obliged to top up the pension fund to make sure there are sufficient funds available to pay the pension. This is the "strain charge".

Isitfair has obtained from council sources more details about how strain charges are calculated insofar as the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is concerned, and asked that the explanation be based on two hypothetical cases, namely:

Male, salary £100,000, 30 years service, made redundant at age 56

Female, salary £50,000, 25 years service, made redundant at age 56

The response runs to five A4 sides containing some very confusing calculations, but the principal results are:

For the male: Full pension payable - £39,166 per annum; Lump sum payable on retirement - £97,500; Strain charge - £129,168

For the female: Full pension payable - £16,458 per annum; Lump sum payable on retirement - £39,375; Strain charge - £58,469

(Bear in mind that these two employees would have had an entitlement to more than generous redundancy pay too!*) 

But we must stress these are hypothetical cases. We know we have no right whatsoever to demand details of individual pensions, invasion of privacy and all that, but we do believe very strongly that councils should be required to divulge not only how much has been paid out in redundancy payments but also details of strain charges. This is our money, whether it comes from reserves or gained from cost cutting measures. At the very least annual totals should be clearly shown in their Statement of Accounts. We find it amazing there is no requirement for this at the moment. An instance where, perhaps, local government is not quite as transparent as Eric Pickles would wish.

*Here is a reminder from the last newsletter regarding redundancy payments. The material below is relevant to our council. I cannot say that the same applies to all councils, but I am prepared to bet that many may have the same system and that some are even more generous.

Employee, 50 years old, 15 years service, salary £75K (average for a senior manager)

Basic statutory scheme payment £8,000

County Council’s compulsory scheme payment £28,000

County Council’s enhanced voluntary scheme payment £56,000

Councillors

It has long been our belief that there are too many councillors, and on occasion councillors have agreed with us. While councils continue to cut the number of employees, some of you may have missed the news that some councils are increasing the number of councillors receiving special responsibility payments.  The number of councillors wearing more than one hat (and possibly holding down another job) is increasing.  Creating a new cabinet place can mean a hefty rise in allowances, in one particular case more than £17,000.

Surely what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. What sort of message is being sent out to the public?  While lower paid employees are being made redundant, it is OK to pay out the savings made by this redundancy to enhance a councillor’s salary.

If you have any further details on this, in your area, we would be pleased to here from you.

Be Aware

Some of you may have read in the press this week that the banding scam is still alive and kicking.  Some companies offering to see if your house is in the wrong band, are asking for money ‘up front’  Should you receive a mail shot or a telephone offer to carry out this service, please put the telephone down or put the leaflet in the bin.  This service is free of charge to anyone from the Valuation Office Agency.  If you can’t find the number in the telephone directory, your council will generally supply it.

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View Article  Isitfair council tax or LVT

Isitfair is a nationwide campaign calling for the reform of the council tax system. www.isitfair.co.uk

We have recently received a copy of the Liberal Democrats' discussion paper on local government funding. 

Earlier Lib Dem policy papers have included land value tax and we have always maintained that LVT is not fair.  What worries me is the position of power now held by them and the possibility that, like the mansion tax, other aspects of this paper may be used as trading off tools.

I was always under the impression that the Liberal Democrats were very keen on fairness, perhaps I have been wrong all along, or maybe my version of fairness is out of kilter. 

I know that I have used this example before and I make no excuses for doing so again.  Why should council tax on a similar property across the country vary so much?  Why should the tax vary between Band B and Band H for a property of a similar size in a different part of the country? 

All the Isitfair campaign calls for is a fair and equable way of funding local government.  The present system is unfair and unaffordable and until any of these politicians demonstrate that they have at last grasped that 

(a)    one of the flaws in the current system is its failure to recognise that the value, and the consequent banding, of your property is dependent not on how grand or how simple it is, but on where in the country you live; that 

(b)    so-called "wealthy" areas are not entirely populated by "wealthy" people; and that 

(c)    the differences across the country in Formula Grant per head are so huge that there is no possible chance that the system can be fair, 

they should go back to the drawing board. Perhaps this is what the Lib Dems are trying to do, but we believe that Land Value Tax does nothing to correct the situation at point (a) above. And actually, neither does Mansion Tax which fails to recognise that a home designated a "mansion" in one area will be very different indeed from one designated a "mansion" in another. 

We all realise that local government must be funded but how it is done, must be fair for all  

http://www.libdems.org.uk/siteFiles/resources/docs/conference/103%20-%20Local%20Government%20Finance.pdf   

View Article  Isitfair that council tax should pay for this?
The rich get rich and the poor get poorer’, never did the words of this old song ring more true than today. 

Anyone who has faced redundancy knows it’s pretty awful, so most of us will feel some sympathy for anyone finding him or herself in that situation. 

However, the County Council’s Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy Scheme is extraordinarily generous especially when one considers it is financed by the public purse. Yes, the funds (£10 million has been set aside) may be coming from the Council’s reserves, but it should not be forgotten that this is our money, held by the Council on our behalf. 

The County claims that cutting management posts will save around £36 million over the next four years, so the up front costs are worth it. We say that if they had stayed with the compulsory redundancy scheme the savings would have been substantially more. 

Here is an example: 

Employee, 50 years old, 15 years service, salary £75K (average for a senior manager)

Basic statutory scheme payment £8,000

County Council’s compulsory scheme payment £28,000

County Council’s enhanced voluntary scheme payment £56,000(BBC South Today figure) 

The Leader of the Council, Ken Thornber, says that this generous redundancy pay is deserved. I fail to see why. The Scheme is open to all employees, but let’s concentrate on the 150 senior managers whom the Council is looking to lose and who are being encouraged to take advantage of this Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy Scheme. 

They have received very high salaries, possibly bonuses or honorariums in the recent past. These high salaries, accompanied by an employer’s contribution to the Local Government Pension Scheme of around 19% on top of those salaries, lead to the sort of pensions most of us can only dream of, and of course, to these very high redundancy payments. 

When interviewed by BBC South Today recently, Ken Thornber drew particular attention to employees with 30 to 35 years service, salary of around £60K - £70K, who have “earned that money and are going to forego it for 2, 3, 4 years.” This appears to us to indicate that at least some of these volunteers are close to retirement, and we are given to understand that if they are aged 55 or over, they will be entitled to the immediate, unreduced payment of LGPS benefits. If this is the case, then for some, on top of this generous redundancy package will come their equally generous pension. For that person with 35 years service, at present earning £70K, we believe this pension to be £31,500 plus a lump sum of £84K. Details can be found on the Hampshire County Council website  http://www3.hants.gov.uk/employee_guide_2011_final.doc  see pages 7 and 8. Readers   see the rules and work it out for themselves.  .  .

 It is being said that for those senior people who are close to retirement anyway, this could be quite a good deal. The Council, predictably, says that whatever payment they get needs to be enough not to leave them “struggling”. 

 “Struggling”? We don’t think so. And let’s admit it, how many of us – in their shoes – wouldn’t be jostling for a place in the queue? 

I am contributing to this out of my pension as all other council taxpayers and income tax payers do from their often meagre salaries. The claim that the public sector is lower paid than the private sector is now something that no longer applies and hasn’t for many years – and yet the terms and conditions of employment give them the cream, while we, the employer, in many cases go without 

The Council says that this money is available because of savings made over the years. Good financial management, saving for a rainy day. Yes, Isitfair acknowledges this. But we find it very difficult to agree this is the best way of using money, which may soon, in these hard times, be genuinely needed elsewhere. 

Many of our members have contacted us since the BBC interview, most of them asking the same question.  If the Council is in a position to make these people redundant now, why were they employed in the first place?  And being rather cynical, how many of these redundant senior managers will turn up as consultants in a few months time?      

    Isitfair The Nationwide Campaign Calling For The Reform Of The Council Tax System.  Please visit www.isitfair.co.uk

 

 

View Article  Council Tax Debate called for by Isitfair

Isn’t it time for Council Tax to be Scrutinised?                                                       by Brian Jaye 

This is the question that should be on every taxpayer’s mind especially in times of austerity.

Every taxpayer should reflect that this property tax is now in its eighteenth year, it is a tax which has increased more than any other method of taxation.  

We have all read that it doubled under the New Labour administration, but that is not what we should be looking at. We need to look back to what you were charged in 1993/94.  It is only then you arrive at the true cost to you the taxpayer.  

As an example, and not using average percentages but reality, in North Dorset the Sturminster Newton band ‘D’ precept has increased from £473.90 to £1,636.92 an increase of 245%, a far cry from doubling.

It is because of this I met with Robert Walter MP [Cons.] for North Dorset in December 2010 and requested him on behalf of Isitfair to call for debate in the House of Commons. At this time he suggested that this could be achieved through the Backbenchers’ Business Committee and that he would speak to colleagues regarding this matter. I have since received feedback from him stating quote, “While Mr Walter is sympathetic to the group’s views and is prepared to express those views on your behalf, he remains supportive of the Government’s position. Therefore he feels it would be more appropriate for the group to nominate an MP willing to lead the case”. Not what was expected of him but at least he is prepared to put forward my views. 

Isitfair feel that we should not give up our aim to achieve a Council Tax Debate in the House of Commons as apart from some passing comments by some Members of Parliament it has never been scrutinised since its inception in spite of all the problems associated with it. 

Remember, when the original Council Tax Bill was presented to the House of Commons in March 1991 it included the following statements, [a] seen to be fair [b] take into account ability to pay [c] ease of collection. There are other elements within the document which certainly do not apply, such as “there will be a single bill for each household comprising two essential elements, the number of adults living there and the value of the property”, and “the system should ensure that regional variations in property values do not lead to disproportionate bills in high price areas”. Do these principles exist today? Simply, No! With regards to “ease of collection” 1.2 million court summonses were issued in England in 2008/9. 

We therefore request all our members to contact their Members of Parliament requesting them to place before the Backbenchers’ Business Committee a request for Council Tax to be debated in the House of Commons.

More can be found on this subject www.isitfair.co.uk  

View Article  Isitfair meeting with Bob Neill Subject Council Tax

Isitfair a Nationwide Campaign Calling for the Reform of the Council Tax System

www.isitfair.co.uk  

ISITFAIR MEETING AT DCLG 1st November 2010 Council tax and Parish Councils (our report)

1.    PARISH COUNCILS

a.     We drew attention to the situation in which over the past few years District Councils have been offloading a number of their non-statutory duties to Parish Councils whilst retaining the money they would have had to spend on these duties. It is plain that this has been done purely to avoid capping by central Government. We are becoming increasingly concerned that this practice will become more and more prevalent as the inevitable cuts "kick in".

b.     We handed over Mike Schofield’s report on this subject which appears on the Isitfair website.

c.     We assured Mr Neill that we were, of course, aware that parish/town councils do not receive grants from central Government. He said that it followed that parish council precepts could not be "capped" by central Government. He also said that it was up to the parish councils whether or not they took on these non-statutory duties.

d.     A point which we did not have time to make: It has until recent years been the norm for the parish/town council precept to be the smallest entry on our council tax bills. This is not now always the case. Some of our members report that their parish precept has overtaken that of the Fire and Rescue Authority, and in a number of cases it has overtaken that of the District.

2.    REFERENDUMS

a.     We were informed that no decision had yet been made on whether a parish/town council would be subject to a local referendum if their precept increased substantially. The criterion would have to be "pounds and pence" rather than percentage.

b.     We emphasised the point that in our consultation with Isitfair members on the Referendum proposal, 87% strongly agreed with the statement, "Only those who actually pay Council Tax should be entitled to vote in any referendum on the level of Council Tax to be charged. Electors who do not pay Council Tax, (or receive 100% Council Tax Benefit), should be excluded from such consultation." The reception for this was rather lukewarm, and we suspect that it is considered that to include only people who actually paid council tax would create too many administrative difficulties.

3.    COUNCIL TAX AND GRANTS

a.     Mr Neill agreed that the tax is too high, but drew attention to the recent government proposal to enable a "freeze" for one year by those authorities who chose to take part. It had been hoped to do this for two years but this was not possible in the current financial climate.

b.     There is no doubt that the Government acknowledges that the council tax system over the past ten years has lost sight of some of its original principles. The following was included in the papers handed to Mr Neill:

On 21 March 1991, Michael Heseltine introduced the House to the principles to be applied to the new tax which we all know now as council Tax. Amongst these principles was this:

"The system should ensure that regional variations in property values do not lead to disproportionate bills in high price areas." And this:

"Fairness. Nobody likes paying taxes. But in our society taxes have to be basically acceptable to taxpayers; and to achieve that they must be perceived to be fair."

c.     Formula Grant has been used to reward (or punish!) some areas of the country over others. Our research shows that the Shire counties have suffered substantially.

d.     The consultation on Formula Grant Allocation ended last month, and we were assured that work is in progress to improve the current situation. Mr Neill said that another Local Government Funding review was planned.

e.     Isitfair always aims to be constructive, and Michael spoke briefly about his paper on

(1) Central Government Grants which outlined his suggestion that it would perhaps make more sense to base any Central Government grants to Local Authorities on the basis of the incomes of the residents of those Authorities, than basing them on property prices. Eric Pickles had previously shown interest in this and we were a trifle disappointed that Mr Neill more or less dismissed it as overly complicated.

(2) Referenda and Council Tax Benefit.

f.    A copy of this paper follows below this email.

g.     Michael said that it would be helpful if he could be put in touch with the department’s researchers, but this was refused. However, Mr Neill said he would be quite happy to receive any documents that we produce in the future.

4.    COUNCILLORS AND ALLOWANCES

a.    We have over the years become aware that some councillors are in receipt of multiple allowances: perhaps County, District, Fire and/or Police plus Development Agencies (soon to go), LGA, APA, National Park authorities. The more we look, the more we find, often quite accidentally in the course of unrelated research. We wonder, seriously, how these people can find the time needed to give all these appointments the attention they deserve!

b.     We included a spreadsheet showing details of allowances paid to Hampshire county councillors, but emphasised that we had brought this merely as a flavour of what we know from our research is happening not just in Hampshire but across the country.

c.     Although we believe that councillors should be required to divulge basic details of their "day jobs", we do not believe that they should be obliged to disclose their earnings from that source. We can see no reason at all, however, why they should not be required to disclose, in an easily accessible place, preferably on line, full details of how much they draw in total from the public purse.

d.     Mr Neill considered this could place an unacceptable burden on council staff and that only a few people were interested anyway. We said that councillors should be enabled to do the job themselves. (Because the general public is on the whole unaware of the situation it does not mean that they are not interested!)

5.    LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION (LGA)

This is just one of the organisations involved in the transfer of vast amounts of taxpayers’ and council taxpayers’ money from one pocket into another.

Subscriptions (from over 400 member authorities) 2009/10: £14,450,000. Tax payers’ money, paid from councils’ budgets.

Allowances to be paid to councillor members 2010/11: £993,213.

139 staff – salary bill: £7,413,366. Pension payments: £1,546,354. Chief Exec believed to be paid £245,000.

Mr Neill said LGA membership was voluntary (his local council had withdrawn). He had dealings with the LGA and had no problem with them.

Later comment    We wonder if our conversation with the minister regarding the Salary of the CEO of the LGA played any part in the proposed reduction of said salary

6.    LOCAL DEMOCRACY

a.    We touched briefly on this. The low turnout at elections is depressing. A member has suggested that an election be declared null and void if turnout was less than 50%.

b.     We think there are too many councillors. Mr Neill claimed that he/parliament could not instruct the Electoral/Boundary Commission to increase the size of Council divisions.

However, the government has already promised to reduce the number of MPs and to make parliamentary constituencies equal in size. If they can do this for Central Government, then why can they not issue the same guidelines/instructions with respect to Local Government?

c.     And to return to the issue of parish councils, do we really want them? Judging by the abysmal turnout at election time, we have begun to wonder. It would appear there is a process in place to get rid of parish councils if residents no longer want them, but we gained the impression today that this issue is not one for Mr Neill’s department.

7.    GENERAL

We unfortunately ran out of time but assume that either Bob Neill or his officials will take a good look at the papers we handed over to them. Amongst these were the following which were either not discussed at all, or covered only briefly:

Extravagance in Local Government with pieces entitled "The Chief Executive – Is this post really necessary?"; "Non-Jobs"; "Staff Perks". Not discussed.

Campaigning for Reform – A blast from the past. See paragraphs 3a-d above.

Anomalies. Wandsworth and Westminster council tax. Why is it so much less than everywhere else? Not discussed.

Council Tax and Student Abuse. This was a late addition.

Notes on the proposed reforms to the State pension. Another paper by Michael Boon. Also a late addition. It was mentioned during the meeting but appeared to be a subject more appropriate for the Department of Work & Pensions.

(All these documents are available either on the Isitfair web site, or from me. Christine.)

POST-MEETING

a.     We felt this was not one of our most successful meetings. We also feel that it took place too soon in this Parliament and it would have been better to wait until Mr Neill had more time to give us. We believe we got our points over insofar as the unfairness of the grants, but it would have been so much better had there been time for Michael to go through his paper and explain it in more detail.

b. There remains a great deal of confusion amongst our members on capping and referenda as far as parish councils are concerned and we request clarification.

Clarification letter received from Bob Neill’s Office 

Dear Mrs Melsom 

As you know, Bob Neil MP has forwarded your email of 8 November, asking for clarification of the situation of town and parish councils in respect of council tax referendums following your meeting with him on 1 November to me to reply. 

You particularly ask for clarification about capping. The referendums provisions will replace the use of the present central capping powers as part of the Government’s wider programme of decentralising power to local communities. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the necessary legislation is expected to come into force from 2012-13 onwards. For this reason the Government reserves the right to take capping action in 2011-12 should this be necessary. You will be aware that the current capping legislation does not apply to town and parish councils. However, the Government is nevertheless urging town and parish councils to exercise restraint and seek to ensure that council taxpayers are not faced with increased bills in 2011-12. 

As set out in the consultation document, the intention is that parish and town councils should be included in the new referendum provisions subject to a deminimus threshold. This threshold will exclude such councils where either the increase in the basic amount of council tax is below a defined amount or where the total income generated is below a fixed level. It is anticipated that this will exclude the majority of smaller towns and parishes from the referendums provisions. 

The threshold will be subject to principles proposed by the Government each year at the same time as the provisional Local Government Finance Report is published. These principles will be subject to consultation alongside that on the provisional Report, and also to final approval from the House of Commons. 

You also mentioned in your email of 8 November that ISITFAIR members overwhelmingly support people who are not paying council tax, not taking part in any referenda and you ask for comments on this point. The Government intends that everyone who is on the electoral role will be able to vote in a referendum as is the case for local and national elections. All residents access or use local services in

some way or other and the Government believes that they are entitled to a view on the level of council tax increase proposed, and on the overall service provided by authorities.

 I hope that this is helpful to you.

Yours sincerely 

Bearing in mind what has been said in this letter, and the results of our survey –  87% of you said that only those paying council tax should vote in any referendum on the level of council tax – I suggest that you write to your MP and make your feelings quite clear on this point.

 

View Article  Council Tax and Central Government Grant

Isitfair a Nationwide Campaign Calling for the Reform of Council Tax

www.isitfair.co.uk

 

Council Tax and Central Government Grant                                                Michael Boon, October 2010©

 

Central Government Grants

 

•        Council Tax is unfair in the sense that people in very similar financial circumstances pay very different amounts of Council Tax.  This is mainly dependent upon which Local Authority they live in. 

 

–        While the use of property values is not ideal to determine what share of the burden any household should pay, it does work reasonably well within each Local Authority

 

–        However, it does not work at all well between different Local Authorities.

 

-                 This is because the shape of the income distribution is different from the shape of the property price distribution – and there are many Local Authorities where the price of properties, and hence their banding, is out of line with both average and median incomes.

 

•        Council Tax bears very little relationship to council spending - the highest spenders often have the lowest Council Tax, and vice versa.

 

On this basis, it would make more sense to base any Central Government grants to Local Authorities on the basis of the incomes of the residents of those Authorities, than basing them on property prices.

 

Any change from the present system would probably have to be gradual, so as to avoid any sharp shocks to those who would lose out.  However, we note that the previous government did not take this into account when they changed the system for 2003-04 and onwards!

 

Referenda and Council Tax Benefit

 

•        In general, Isitfair members have reacted positively to the proposals for requiring referenda to approve “excessive” Council Tax rises.

 

•        However, we are concerned that those who do not pay Council Tax will find it in their interests to vote for  “excessive” rises which don’t cost them a penny – but which such “excessive” rises will allow them to receive extra Local Authority services at other people’s expense.

 

–        There are two ways around this problem.  First, one could restrict voting in such referenda to those who actually pay Council Tax.  Second, we could abolish 100% Council Tax benefit and ensure that everyone pays something towards the cost of local services.  This would help to reduce the Central Government fiscal deficit!

 

-                 It seems a little strange that Central Government, which finances Council Tax Benefit, should allow Local Authorities to charge “excessive” Council Tax where there are large numbers of recipients of Council Tax Benefit in an Authority!

 

-                 In this context, it would seem sensible to pay any CTB according to some “approved” or average value for properties in a particular band.  This would give those residents in receipt of CTB an incentive to vote for more frugal Local Authorities.

 

However, there are some problems with any use of the electoral system to restrict Local Authority spending:

 

•        An examination of local election results has shown that there is no statistically significant difference in terms of council tax rises between councils where there is a change in control and councils where no change of control occurs.

 

–        This is true both for council tax rises prior to the election and those subsequent to it

 

•        There is no statistically significant correlation between the balance of funding in a local authority and the turnout at local elections for that authority

 

•        Local authority spending is almost entirely determined by central government.  Local authority spending can be predicted by a statistical model whose only inputs are parameters entirely determined by central government

 

–        As a result, council tax is largely determined by central government also

 

•        Before referenda are likely to work, there needs to be much more Local autonomy then there is at present.

 

–        We note that the predictions of very local spending, (i.e. by District Councils), are less accurate than the predictions of total Local Authority spending, (i.e. including County Councils, Fire and Police Authorities), on the residents of those districts.  Smaller authorities appear to be more responsive to local concerns, and less controlled by central government than larger authorities


 

•        In general, there appears to be a common problem associated with highly progressive tax systems.  Those who pay (say) only 25% of the cost of the services that they receive still get a very good deal even if those services cost twice as much as they ought to!  They therefore have an incentive to vote for such services – however inefficiently they might be provided.  Obviously, this leaves others to pick up the tab for inefficiency

 

–        Council Tax is often thought to be a regressive tax.  However, on the national scale, it would appear to be mildly progressive at incomes below the median and mildly regressive on higher incomes.

 

–        Making Council Tax more progressive, (for which many people argue), would actually increase the unfairness of the system – sine the unfairness affects those poor people living in Local Authorities which receive very little by way of government grants but where low banded property is very scarce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

View Article  Council Tax Referendum Consultation

Isitfair®

Council Tax Reform

A non party political nationwide campaign

Having consulted with its membership, Isitfair is pleased to make these submissions relating to the proposal that referenda should be held to veto any "excessive" Council Tax increases.

Preamble

In general our members reacted positively to the proposals contained in the consultation document, although the comments accompanying their responses to our survey revealed a number of widely held concerns. We believe, therefore, that there are a number of improvements that could be made. In summary these are:

1) We believe that any "cap" or trigger point for a referendum should be expressed in terms of pounds per dwelling for each particular type of Local Authority. Every equivalent Authority would then be subject to the same, identical pound cap. This means, for example, that all fire services should have the same cap, all those county councils that do not run their own fire services should have the same, (but a different), cap, all those County Councils that do run their own fire services should have a cap equal to the sum of the caps for the separate fire service and county council caps and so on. The reason for this proposed modification is to avoid rewarding extravagance and punishing frugality - which is what a percentage based cap would tend to do. An excellent practical example of this is the recent capping of the Lincolnshire Police Authority whose proposed budget represented a large percentage increase - partly, we suspect, because, up to that time, Lincolnshire Police had been the lowest spending Police Authority in England.

2) We believe that Councils should not be entitled to increase their precepts beyond the cap or referendum trigger point without their having received prior approval through a referendum. This would obviate the need for any re-billing. If the referendum grants approval for a greater Council Tax increase, the difference would be collected through the following year's Council Tax bill. The extra services represented by the "excessive" increase could be supplied immediately once the approval for them had been obtained. (We would expect that finance would be easy to arrange given that the income stream to service it would, in effect, be guaranteed.)

3) Many of our members expressed concern about the costs associated with holding referenda. We believe that the referendum ballot papers, where needed, should be sent out along with the Council Tax bill and that the referendum should be a postal vote only. Our membership feel very strongly that only those who actually pay Council Tax should be entitled to vote on any "excessive" increase. (Voting for the Local Council - and what the money is spent on - is a different matter altogether.) Our proposal would ensure that only those named on the Council Tax bill would receive a vote on this type of issue. We believe that this proposal has additional merit, since it would appear that the Government wishes to limit Council Tax increases. Those that do not pay have, in effect, a vested interest in raising Council Tax on others in order to be able to consume more services. This especially applies to students for example.

4) A number of our members also expressed concerns about the costs associated with preparing alternative budgets. We believe that the solution is to have a "base" budget that is within the "cap" together with a costed list of additional services that could be provided if the increased Council Tax required to finance them were to be approved. In order to avoid any emotional blackmail, it would also be appropriate to indicate those expenditures that are already included within the "base" budget.

5) Some concern was also expressed by our membership that some Councils might use the anticipated additional costs of a referendum or budgeting as a sort of blackmail to enable them "to push the limits" on increases. We are not particularly concerned with either of these, (the referendum is not optional so only the re-budgeting would represent an additional cost - and this would disappear if our ideas under 4 above were to be adopted), but we do believe that Councils might need an additional incentive to behave responsibly. One idea is that any defeat in a referendum would trigger an immediate local election for all membership of the defeated authority. We note, however, that Police and Fire Authorities are not directly elected, (and as the Audit Commission reported, these were the ones that had the largest percentage increases in their precepts in 2003-2004). Although not directly relevant to this consultation, we would welcome the idea of elected Police "sheriffs" and, if proposed, Fire bosses.

6) Although not specifically asked about in the consultation questions, we believe that the issue of canvassing would be best addressed by ensuring that no public money was spent on doing so. We would anticipate that many other organisations would canvass, and it seems a bit odd that Local Authority members should not be enabled to do so as well.

Our responses to the questions asked:

In detail, our responses to your questions are:

Q1) Do you agree that local precepting authorities, such as town and parish councils, should be included within the provisions for council tax referendums?

We certainly believe that all precepting Authorities should be included within the referendum proposals. We believe that we have strong evidence that capped Authorities have pushed down the financing of services to uncapped ones - principally Parish Councils. This would defeat what appears to be the Government's objectives.

Q2) Are the Local Authorities (Conduct of Referendums) (England) Regulations 2007 the right model for organising and administering council tax referendums?

This is a technical matter on which we are not qualified to express an opinion.

Q3) Are there any practical difficulties in requiring council tax referendums to take place no later than the first Thursday of May?

We do not believe that the timing of a referendum is crucial provided that "excessive" increases can only be imposed after approval via a referendum.

Q4) What are the advantages and disadvantages of holding a council tax referendum on the same day as another local referendum, or jointly with a local and/or general election? Current regulations allow for higher expenses per elector in a referendum than in a local election – would this raise any concerns if both votes are held on the same day?

We are concerned that multiple ballots could lead to electoral confusion, (as happened in Scotland – based on the number of spoilt papers). We also believe that the electorate would be more likely to make an informed choice if the ballot papers were to be directly associated with the Council Tax bill as we propose above.

Q5) What provision, if any, should be made for properties where the council tax payer is not a local elector?

We believe that all those who pay Council Tax should have a vote. If, as we propose, the ballot papers are sent out with the bill, the problem envisaged by this question should not arise. Perhaps the question should be turned around to: "What should happen when electors are not Council Tax payers?"!

Q6) Does the timetable at Annex A provide sufficient stability and certainty for local authorities when planning their budgets? Does it provide sufficient time to organise and administer referendums?

We believe that Local Authorities should plan their principal budgets within the cap limits. If approved rises are only collected in arrears, (as we propose), then we would anticipate few difficulties. Although we might expect some "teething" problems in the first year, we would expect any competent and well managed organisation to be able to cope with any deadline provided that they know what that deadline is early enough.

Q7) Is it right to give local authorities the discretion to issue new bills immediately, offer refunds at the end of the year or allow credits against liability in the following year.

We don't think so. Issuing bills after approval seems to be more sensible.

Q8) How should billing authorities treat bank interest earned on excessive increases that have been rejected in a referendum?

If our proposals for retrospective billing are adopted, then this question will not arise.

Q9) What practical difficulties, if any, would there be for a billing authority seeking to recoup the cost of a referendum held on behalf of one or more precepting authorities?

Again probably some initial "teething" problems but nothing insurmountable. We are not really qualified to express an opinion on this, though.

Q10) Are there any technical difficulties with the removal of alternative notional amount reports?

This is a technical issue on which we are not qualified to express an opinion.

Q11) With the abolition of capping, is there any reason why authorities should be required to calculate a budget requirement each year?

We believe that all good managements produce budgets at least once a year - and usually on a rolling basis. We see no reason why Local Authorities should be any different. Indeed, we would prefer it if Local Authorities were to use zero based budgeting techniques.

General Comments

We are somewhat concerned that the proposals are based on a misunderstanding of the cause of the problem. Our analyses show that the major cause of "unfairness", as well as excessive increases in, Council Tax are associated with the Central Government grant system and the way that, over the years, more responsibilities have been placed on Local Government without providing the matching finance. Central Government seems to have retained power but devolved responsibility.

Some of our membership have expressed their concern that our participation in this consultation process might be taken as our acquiescence in other aspects of the Council Tax system. We continue to believe very strongly indeed that radical reform of the system is urgent and necessary, (not least to the grant system). However this is beyond the scope of this response

I have attached a summary of the survey Isitfair carried out through e mail membership.  I hope you will find it interesting

Christine Melsom, Chair

Isitfair,

CONSULTATION ON PROPOSAL TO USE REFERENDA TO VETO EXCESSIVE RISES IN COUNCIL TAX – RESULTS OF ISITFAIR SURVEY – 3 SEPTEMBER 2010

 

Statement 1:

Only those who actually pay Council Tax should be entitled to vote in any referendum on the level of Council Tax to be charged. Electors who do not pay Council Tax, (or receive 100% Council Tax Benefit), should be excluded from such consultation.

 

Strongly agree:              87%

Agree:                           7%

No opinion:                    2%

Disagree:                      2%

Strongly disagree:          2%

 

Statement 2:

Councils should not be entitled to raise Council Tax levels beyond the referendum trigger point without having received prior approval through a referendum. The extra Council Tax, if approved, would be collected through the following year’s Council Tax Bill.

 

Strongly agree:              78%

Agree:                           19%

No opinion:                    1%

Disagree:                       2%

Strongly disagree:          1%

 

Statement 3:

The capping regime (with some minor modification see Notes (a) and (b) above) should remain in place unless, for a particular Local Authority, the electorate approves its removal, for that particular year, via an appropriate referendum. Note (a) was on the inclusion of Town and Parish Councils; note (b) was on the criticism of the previous government’s policy of setting capping principles after local authorities had set their budget requirements.

 

Strongly agree:              70%

Agree:                           25%

No opinion:                    4%

Disagree:                       0%

Strongly disagree:          1%

 

Statement 4:

If the electorate refuses to sanction a Council Tax rise through a referendum, then this should automatically trigger a local election for members of the relevant Council.

 

Strongly agree:              64%

Agree:                          19%

No opinion:                    8%

Disagree:                      7%

Strongly disagree:          2%

 

Statement 5:

I believe that this proposal, in spite of its potential cost, has some merit.

 

Strongly agree:              64%

Agree:                          32%

No opinion:                    2%

Disagree:                      0%

Strongly disagree:          2%

 

isitfair/Sep 10

 
View Article  Council Tax pays for Executives Bonuses

I am a founder member and chairman of the Isitfair campaign and as a result I receive letters from all over the country from members telling me their stories regarding council tax, suggestions on how the tax could be made fairer and their difficulties in paying. I also receive a lot of information on how councils spend taxpayers’ money. 

Firstly, a letter received this morning from an Isitfair supporterin the East Midlands has really made me see red.  She asks how we can make the Government and the councils sit up and take notice of the predicament of some pensioners. 

Both she and her husband are of pensionable age and receive no state benefits.  She had since retirement taken on two cleaning jobs to help pay the £1,200 council tax due on their home.  Recently due to the recession she has lost one of these jobs and the second has cut the hours.  She has been unable to find other work. 

Of course you will say that they should apply for benefits – but they have just too much in the way of savings.  Like thousands of other across the country they are asset rich and income poor.  Savings are required to pay for the upkeep on a property they have struggled to buy through their working years.  It is their rainy day money, put by for emergencies.  Unlike Governments, that is what they did, they spent according to their means and saved for those rainy days because, unlike people living in rented property, there is no one else who will pay for replacements and repairs. They are people living on the edge of the benefit system, financially worse off than those receiving all the state benefits. 

Secondly, you can imagine my anger this morning when a reporter telephoned me to ask my opinion on the bonuses or emoluments being paid to the executive staff on councils throughout the country.  People already receiving huge salaries and contributions to their pensions from the public purse, being paid bonuses larger than many of us (including council staff) receive each year to live on and even bring up a family.  It seems that monetary restraint applies only to those in the lower echelons of public service.  

So here we have, on the one hand, this lady of retirement age worrying about how to pay her council tax bill, and taking on cleaning jobs to do so and, on the other hand, people employed by the council receiving fivefigure bonuses on top of salaries so enormous they beggar belief. There is something very wrong here. 

You may say that these high paid executives are responsible for huge budgets, but are they really?  If they are, then why are we paying millions of pounds every year to councillors?  Councillors, I would add, who are also receiving high salaries (or if you really want to be picky, allowances), can also join (and do) a very favourable Local Government Pension Scheme.  You must remember that everything in the public sector is paid for by the private sector. 

 The world has gone mad. 

Many councils have prepared themselves for shedding staff.  They have continued to recruit and still recruit. Last in, first our  Easy come, easy go. 

The proposed £250 per annum pay rise for the lowest paid staff now seems to me to be more of an insult.  I just hope that when the good times roll the flat monetary rise should apply across the board.  The highly paid executives, living  in there own little world of  protected wealth and advantage, and thumbing their noses at their paymasters, must  surely receive their comeuppance.

 

View Article  Council Tax stats and all that

Local Government Financial Statistics England 20 2010 tells us that:

  • In England, local authorities' total expenditure was £160 billion in 2008-09.
  • In 2008-09 local authorities employed 1.8 million full-time employees (FTE) staff and nearly 50 per cent of service expenditure (gross of income) was spent on these employees.
  • About 60 per cent of local authorities' gross income in 2008-09 came from central government (through grants or re-distributed non-domestic rates). Other income from local sources included council tax, sales, fees and charges, council rents and capital receipts.
  • The largest share of net current expenditure in 2008-09 was on education services with 37 per cent of the total. Social services accounted for a further 17 per cent, housing (excluding Housing Revenue Account) 15 per cent and police 10 per cent.
  • Average Band D council tax, for a two adult household, in 2008-09 was £1,414 an increase of 3 per cent on 2007-08.
  • In the North East, 56 per cent of dwellings are in the lowest council tax band (Band A) compared to just 3 per cent in London.
  • Average in year council tax collection rates in 2008-09 stood at 97 per cent compared with 92.6 per cent in 1993-94.
  • The average in year council tax collection rate in Inner London Boroughs has risen from 76.0 per cent in 1993-94 to 94.6 per cent in 2008-09.
  • Revenue expenditure has more than doubled in cash terms between 1993-94 and 2008-09. The corresponding increase in real terms was 58 per cent.
  • About 25 per cent of revenue expenditure is funded through council tax.
  • Revenue spending per head in 2008-09 was highest in London and the North East.
  • Most shire counties spend £500m or more a year, while all shire districts spend less than £40m a year.
  • Of the £62.9bn spent on pay in 2008-09, £20.4bn was used to pay teachers.
  • Local authority capital expenditure has risen from £14.3 billion in 2004-05, to £19.8 billion in 2008-09.
  • Capital spending per head in 2008-09 was highest in London and the North East.
  • In 2008-09 capital expenditure of £4.2 billion was financed by unsupported borrowing, under the new prudential system in place since April 2004 (21 per cent of the total).
  • About 58 per cent of all local authorities used the powers of self-financed borrowing to finance capital expenditure in 2008-09. However, use varied considerably between 97 per cent of metropolitan districts and 42 per cent of shire districts.
  • The stock of capital receipts fell by 24 per cent between 31 March 2008 and 31 March 2009 following a steep fall in in-year receipts during 2008-09.
  • The value of local authority fixed assets is estimated at £244 billion on 31 March 2009.
  • Local authorities' gross outstanding debt at 31 March 2009 was £53.6 billion, the largest proportion of which is owed to the Public Works Loan Board (76 per cent).
  • Local authorities' investments at 31 March 2009 were £26.8 billion following a fall of over £3 billion during 2008-09; nearly 70 per cent of these investments were deposits with banks or building societies.
  • The Local Government Pension Scheme had around 3.9 million members at the end of March 2009 and had a fund value of £97 billion compared with £120 billion a year earlier.

Equivalent annual publications are available from the National Assembly for Wales at www.wales.gov.uk/statistics (external link) and from The Scottish Government at www.scotland.gov.uk/statistics (external link).

View Article  Council Tax Must be made fairer - Isitfair

"Those in areas of high property values have no choice but to pay perhaps half as much again or maybe even double that paid in cheaper areas merely to get a roof over their heads. I say again, they have no choice if they want to stay in the area in which they work and where their families and friends live.  They   commit a far greater proportion of their income to servicing hefty mortgages. When the property is finally theirs, of course it is a valuable asset, but they have paid dearly for it. We have to remember that it is only an asset when sold – until then the value means little, one has to live somewhere. Why are they punished, then, by absurdly high council tax, both throughout their mortgage years and afterwards, totally out of proportion to that paid by those in similar properties elsewhere? 

In his speech to the House of Commons on 21 March 1991 prior to the introduction of Council Tax in April 1993, Michael Heseltine said, "...the system should ensure that regional variations in property values do not lead to disproportionate bills in high price areas." Something has plainly gone badly wrong. What is the new government going to do to put this matter right? 

Perhaps the place to start would be Formula Grant? 

The grant system is due for a make-over.  A manipulative Government has used this as a tool to tighten the screw on councils not flying their flag.  Many areas of the country have been starved of funding while others are awash with cash.  The system must be made fairer, and the sooner the better. 

There is little to indicate that incomes, especially for pensioners, vary much across the country.  Here is one example (and there are many). It may surprise you to know that the median income for Sunderland and for Eastbourne is about the same, but the average council tax per dwelling in Eastbourne is hundreds of pounds more."

View Article  Council Tax The effect on Parishes and Towns Isitfair

 

Isitfair.co.uk

Town and Parish councils precepts

None of the parties has mentioned anything about correcting the anomaly that allows town and parish councils to increase their share of the council tax bill (their precept) by more than the cap that applies to other, higher authorities. Being well aware that the cap does not apply to town and parish councils, a growing number of higher-level councils (County/District/Borough/City) are starting to off-load some of their non-statutory duties onto town and parish councils in their area – but keeping the money that they would have had to spend on these duties. This off-loading has meant that many town and parish council precepts have rocketed such that, in a growing number of cases, the amount demanded by the town/parish is as much as, or even more than, the amount demanded by the district/borough council.

In a Green Paper way back in 2000, and in another document issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2002, the current government has admitted that this off-loading can also lead to double taxation, in that householders can be charged twice for the same services. Even though the current government have been aware of this possible double-taxation business for 10 years, and have issued Green Papers and other reports about it, neither they, nor any of the other parties, has said anything about putting a stop to it.

 

Late news: Government figures released on 24 March reveal that the average Band D council tax set by local authorities in England for 2010-11 will be £1,439 compared with £1,414 in 2009-10. This equates to an average increase between 2009-10 and 2010-11 of 1.8%. The report goes on to say that parish precepts will rise by an average of 4.8%. Note – average! We have heard of a number of parish precepts rising by over 10% and a few by substantially more (well over 50% in some cases).

View Article  Isitfair Council Tax Summary

Isitfair asks What will happen to Council Tax after the next general election?

Labour
Labour is still wedded to CT. If they get back in again it is probable - indeed likely - that there will be a property revaluation. This could be disastrous for CT payers. Rather than push general taxation higher (to try to sort out the mess they have got the country into), they will dump as much as possible onto local government and let them take the blame.

The revaluation in Wales was trumpeted as being "revenue-neutral" i.e. the revaluation would not result in any more, or any less, CT being collected: it would just be a redistribution to make the whole thing "fairer". What they said was that 25% of CT payers would see an increase; 25% would see a decrease and 50% would be unaffected.

What actually happened was that the revaluation ALONE resulted in 9% more CT being demanded. Only 8% ended up paying less, and 32% ended up having to pay more. Some had to pay a LOT more, which is why they also had to bring in a "transitional relief" scheme where people who were bumped up several bands were bumped up one CT band per year until they ended up in what was considered to be the correct band.

If the same revaluation exercise here in England goes the way the revaluation went in Wales - and bearing in mind this government has a record of not learning from past mistakes - the majority of us would end up out of pocket.

And would they also do away with the capping regime?

The Conservatives
The Conservatives also are still wedded to CT. They have said that if they end up with a majority and form the next government, any increase in CT - provided it is not more than 2.5% - will be reimbursed from general taxation for two years - meaning that CT payers will not see an increase in their bills for two years. They are selling this as a CT freeze for two years (which it really isn't) but - what happens in the third year? Will we see an increase in CT of 5% (actually 5.0625% compounded) - plus whatever the councils think they can get away with in year three?

And - unless we have missed it - the Conservatives have said nothing about how the 2.5% will be calculated, but we understand that this "freeze deal" will apply to each individual precept (County Council, District Council, Police and Fire Authorities).

The Conservatives have also said they would not go ahead with a property revaluation for council tax purposes - but that they would do away with the existing capping regime. They are in favour of the greater use of local referendums to help guide decisions. They claim they will make the local government funding settlement more transparent.

The Liberal Democrats
The Lib Dems still seem to favour a local income tax and/or a land-value tax. Even though they haven't any chance of becoming the party of government, they may have some influence if there is hung Parliament and if they cosy up to one or other of the two main parties in some cobbled-together coalition.
The others

And - the fringe parties (Greens, UKIP and others - even the BNP) - could have an influence on the make up of the next parliament if it is close-run thing between Labour and Conservative.

Town / Parish precepts

None of the parties has mentioned anything about correcting the anomaly that allows town / parish councils to increase their share of the council tax bill (their precept) by more than the cap that applies to other, higher, authorities.

Being well aware that the cap does not apply to towns and parishes, a growing number of higher-level councils (County/District/Borough/City) are starting to off-load some of their non-statutory duties onto towns and parishes in their area – but keeping the money that they would have had to spend on these duties.

This off-loading has meant that many town and parish precepts have rocketed such that, in a growing number of cases, the amount demanded by the town/parish is as much as, or even more than, the amount demanded by the district/borough council.

In a Green paper in 2000, and in another document issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2002, the current government has admitted that this off-loading can also lead to double taxation, in that householders can be charged twice for the same services.

So - even though the current government have been aware of this possible double-taxation business for 10 years, and have issued Green Papers and other reports about it, neither they, nor any of the other parties, have said anything about putting a stop to it.

Visit www.isitfair.co.uk

View Article  Isitfair says 3% rise in council tax is unacceptable

So this Government thinks a 3% rise in council tax is OK. 

Three percent is unacceptable for anyone this year when many are receiving no rise in their income whatsoever. The rise in state pensions does not cover this amount and the low paid will struggle to pay any rise. I know that the immediate response from the Government will be 'council tax benefit is available to those in need' - but it is not. The threshold for pension credit has been raised to £10,000 and opens the gateway for thousands to receive benefits of all kinds. The threshold for council tax benefit has remained the same £16,000. Sir Michael Lyons in his inquiry, which has been almost ignored by Government, said that this ceiling should be raised to £50,000 and eventually disappear - and that income should be the only criterion for assessing entitlement to council tax benefit. The Government should insist that there be no rises this year on a tax that has been continually inflated by their own stealth. They should also ensure that Government grant is distributed fairly to help all councils in these straightened times. As all averages, they do not often tell the full story ? 4% sounds very good but many councils will receive much less and many councils will receive much more than that figure ? depending very much on where you live.

Remember the treasurer of our council?  He said that if he received the same grant as some councils, he would not have to levy any precept on the council tax payers of Hampshire.  How can that be fair?

Isitfair is a non party political campaign calling for the reform of the council tax system.  Please visit www.isitfair.co.uk

 

 

View Article  Isitfair calls on Government to fulfill Council Tax promises made by Hesletine

On 21 March 1991 Michael Heseltine, who was at that time the Secretary of State for the Environment, opened a debate in the House of Commons on the proposed review of local government in England. That speech outlined the principles which he believed should underpin any form of local tax. Council Tax was the result of the consultation that followed. The Hansard web link is as follows: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199091/cmhansrd/1991-03-21/Debate-1.html 

He said:  

·        “We believe that councils should be accountable for their actions and that there should be a direct and visible relationship between the costs of services and the local bills to which they give rise. We believe that those bills should be spread widely and fairly throughout communities; that they should bear some relation to people’s ability to pay; and that it should be possible to levy and collect them without difficulty.” 

·        “…there will be a single bill for each household comprising two essential elements, the number of adults living there and the value of the property.” 

·        “… the system should ensure that regional variations in property values do not lead to disproportionate bills in high price areas.”

 

WHAT HAS GONE WRONG?

WHAT PLANS ARE THERE TO PUT MATTERS RIGHT? 

 

 

 

Isitfair is an Independent, Non Party Political Campaign, Calling for the Reform of the Council Tax System 

Please Visit   www.isitfair.co.uk

 

View Article  Isitfair Council Tax Campaign, Curb salaries

 

PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE ISITFAIR COUNCIL TAX PROTEST GROUP

 

For further press information, please contact: Christine Melsom on 01428-712680 or E-mail c@isitfair.co.uk

 

21st September 2009

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

[start of press release]

 

The Isitfair Council Tax Reform Campaign asks “How can councils justify these gigantic salary rises?”  Answer: Because no one seriously challenges them and their extravagance.

 

 Many Local Government Chief Executives have recently been awarded unacceptable salary rises this year. How can any council justify an increase of as much as 45%?  Who authorises and who approves pay rises of this magnitude?  The tax payers have a right to know the answer to these questions.

 

There is little to choose between the reviled bankers, the cheating MPs, and the greedy chief executives employed by the councils and paid by the tax payer.  Taking pension contributions and NIC into consideration, the cost of employing a chief executive on £200,000 a year  is well over A QUARTER OF A MILLION POUNDS.

 

Restraint in public sector spending and public sector salaries must be a priority until this country is out of debt.

 

How can the foot soldiers in both the public and private sector be expected to accept a pay freeze when the management continues to receive these obscene increases? We should all be tightening our belts. All of us.

 

The council tax payer is already hard pressed to pay their bills and should not be asked to fund ANY increases at all this year.

 

[end of press release]

 

 

NOTES for Editors :-

 

Isitfair is a UK-wide, non party-political campaign for the reform of the existing property-value based system of Council Tax.

 

Isitfair wants a fairer system of taxation for local services that is related to everyone's ability to pay.

 

Isitfair represents people of all age groups (not only pensioners) who are unfairly affected by Council Tax.

 

For further press information, please contact: Christine Melsom on 01428-712680 or E-mail c@isitfair.co.uk

 

You can find more information about the Isitfair campaign at www.isitfair.co.uk

 

 Isitfair The Nationwide Campaign Calling For The Reform Of The Council Tax System.  Please visit www.isitfair.co.uk

View Article  Isitfair Council Tax Reform Campaign tells you the true cost of public sector pensions
The true cost of council employees

 

According to the council tax action group, Isitfair, (www.isitfair.co.uk) reports about the number of council employees being paid £50,000, or more, do not tell the full story with regard to the total, taxpayer-funded cost of employing these people.

 

This is because these reports were based only on the salaries paid and did not take into account other costs for which the taxpayer also has to foot the bill and in particular costs associated with employer (i.e. taxpayer) contributions to the employees’ pensions. These other costs add considerably to the total as shown in the table below.

 

Whether all this money – the salaries, the employer pension contributions, and the employer NIC - comes from council tax or from general taxation is neither here nor there. Whichever way you look at it - it is all OUR money – and, under threat of legal action, we are all forced to pay it from income on which we have already paid our own income tax, NIC, VAT, and other taxes.

 

And – to cap it all - from what is left of our income we are also expected to make our own pension arrangements.

 

This state of affairs cannot continue.

 

Employee

Employer

Total cost

to taxpayer

Gross

Annual

Pay

Pension contribution (Note 1)

Tax relief

at 40%

(Note 2)

Contribution to employee pension

(Note 3)

NIC

(Note 4)

£

£

£

£

£

£

50,000

3,600 (7.2%)

1,440

9,050*

4,396**

64,886

100,000

7,500 (7.5%)

3,000

18,100*

10,796**

131,896

200,000

15,000 (7.5%)

6,000

36,200*

23,596**

265,796

*18.1% of pay (Hampshire County Council 2008-09) (See Note 3).

** Using HMRC calculator http://nicecalculator.hmrc.gov.uk/Class1NICs1.aspx  (See Note 4).

 

Notes

 

1.     Employee pension contribution. In 2008-09, and depending on how much they were paid, council employees contributed between 5.5% and 7.5% of their gross annual pay into the Local Government Pension Scheme (the LGPS). The more a person was paid, the greater the percentage they contribute.

 

2.     Tax relief on personal pension contributions. This relief is available, of course, to anyone who contributes to any pension scheme and is, in essence, funded from general taxation. It is perhaps worth noting the colossal benefit to the highest paid.

 

3.     The employer’s contribution to the individual’s pension. The level of employer contributions is determined by individual pension fund actuaries and is recalculated every three years. The level of contribution varies across the country, and from authority to authority, but as an example, in 2008-09, the employer’s (i.e. taxpayer’s) contribution to the pension fund for each employee at Hampshire County Council was 18.1% of the employee’s gross pay. (The employer contribution increased to 18.6% in 2009-10 and will be 19.1% in 2010-11 and will then be reviewed to determine the rates for the following three years.)

 

4.     The employer’s National Insurance Contribution (NIC). NIC is paid by most employed people and also by the employer. The amounts to be paid are determined based on current Government legislation. The LGPS is what is known as a contracted-out scheme meaning that members do not participate in the Second State Pension (S2P – previously known as the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme or SERPS). Because the LGPS is a contracted-out scheme, both the employee and employer pay lower amounts of NIC than would be the case if they were contracted-in.

Visit the Isitfair web site at www.isitfair.co.uk

 

 

View Article  Isitfair calls on the Government for Counciltax reform

It's time to resolve the council tax problem

Christine Melsom,


Our MPs’ abuses of their expenses system have been exposed, and radical reform is now on the cards. Desperate to try and save themselves and restore some level of confidence and trust, our MPs are now showing a more humbled manner. They need to remember that they are elected and to treat their position with respect. Attitudes must change. MPs can be deselected.

Knowing that a system is fundamentally wrong and open to abuse should always result in reform. Yet when it comes to council tax, our politicians shy away from it. Why though? Could it be that the problem is now so big that no politician or party has the strength of character required to undertake the reform so desperately needed.

But ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Council tax payers have been abused with year on year inflation busting increases ever since Labour came to power in 1997 and Gordon Brown has ruthlessly exploited the weaknesses of the council tax system (but, of course, blamed the local authorities for the increases).

A tax based on the value of the property that you live in does not reflect your ability to pay that tax. Pensioners and the low paid are struggling to pay. Of course this wretched Government will say ‘that is why we have the benefit system’. But those of us who have managed to save a little towards a reasonable retirement will, of course, not be included because the formula used by this government to fix the savings ceiling has not been amended for years and does not reflect today’s poor returns on savings.

Council tax is now excessive and the system fundamentally flawed. Isitfair now calls on Parliament and the Government to take the tough decision to replace it with a fairer, more transparent system that takes into account ability to pay from income. If MPs are truly serious about restoring confidence and trust, resolving the council tax problem would be a step in the right direction.

www.isitfair.co.uk

View Article  Isitfair Council Tax Campaign, Press Release

PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE ISITFAIR COUNCIL TAX PROTEST GROUP

For further press information, please contact: Christine Melsom on 01428-712680 or E-mail c@isitfair.co.uk

27th June 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

[start of press release] 

ISITFAIR CAMPAIGN MP Expenses and Reform 

There can be no doubt that the recent revelations of expenses abuses by our elected MPs is a shameful low point for Parliament.  With the Metropolitan Police now launching their own investigations, the possibility of charges being brought against some MPs for fraud is a real possibility.  No wonder the electorate in general view Parliament with complete and utter contempt.  Seeing and hearing our MPs squeal and make excuses for their actions does nothing to restore any confidence in any of them.  Coupled with the disastrous problems surrounding the Government's leadership, we have all seen the 'rats deserting the sinking ship'.  Has the gravy train finally run out for many of them?  Let's hope so. 

Our MPs’ abuses have been exposed, and root and branch reform of the expenses system is now being looked at.  Desperate to try and save themselves and restore some level of confidence and trust, our MPs are now showing a more humbled manner.  They need to remember that they are elected and to treat their position with respect.  Attitudes must change. MPs can be deselected. 

Knowing that a system is fundamentally wrong and open to abuse should always result in reform.  Yet when it comes to council tax, our politicians shy away from it.  Why though? Could it be that for many of their members it has been a ‘nice little earner’? These people have a basic salary of nearly £65,000 each year and yet many of them not only claim back their council tax but also add on a bit more for the effort of making the claim. (To rub salt into the wound, in a number of cases where MPs have failed to pay their council tax, attempts have been made to recoup from their expenses the cost of the liability order issued by the Magistrates Courts!) 

Or could it be that 'the problem' is now so big that no politician or party has the strength of character required to undertake the reform so desperately needed. The recent Lyons Inquiry which took three years to report was immediately shelved by Gordon Brown.  When faced with a difficult decision, he 'bottled it'.

Ignoring 'the problem' won't make it go away.  MPs have known since 2005 that hundreds of thousands of properties are in the wrong council tax band and are being overcharged.  Their response is to do nothing.  Just like the expenses abuses, it is OK to rip off the taxpayer one way or the other. Council tax payers have been abused with year on year inflation busting increases ever since Labour came to power in 1997 and Gordon Brown has ruthlessly exploited the weaknesses of the council tax system (but, of course, blamed the local authorities for the increases). 

Council tax is now overly excessive. A tax based on the value of the property that you live in does not reflect your ability to pay that tax. Pensioners and the low paid are struggling to pay. Of course this wretched Government will say ‘that is why we have the benefit system’. Those of us who have managed to save a little towards a reasonable retirement will, of course, not be included – because – according to the formula used by this Government our savings are earning £1 per £100 per month. Those not yet retired but with savings are deemed to receive £2 per £100 per month. In fact, there is nothing. No interest, no income equals poverty for many and an ever lengthening line at the council offices to try to claim council tax benefit. What they are doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and Paul is already a wealthy MP!! And we maintain that a taxation system that has to have a benefit system to make it work is just wrong. 

The system is fundamentally flawed.  It needs to be replaced with a fairer, more transparent system that takes into account ability to pay. 

Isitfair now calls on Parliament and the Government to take the tough decision to look at root and branch reform of the council tax system.  If MPs are serious about restoring confidence and trust, resolving the council tax problem would be a step in the right direction.

[end of press release] 

For further press information, please contact: Christine Melsom on 01428-712680 or E-mail c@isitfair.co.uk 

Issued by Isitfair Campaign, Headley, Hampshire GU35 8PJ

 

View Article  ISITFAIR COUINCIL TAX CAMPAIGN PRESS RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE ISITFAIR COUNCIL TAX PROTEST GROUP

For further press information, please contact: Mrs. Christine Melsom on 01428-712680 or E-mail c@isitfair.co.uk 

28th June 2009 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

[start of press release] 

ISITFAIR CAMPAIGN MP Expenses and Reform

There can be no doubt that the recent revelations of expenses abuses by our elected MPs is a shameful low point for Parliament.  With the Metropolitan Police now launching their own investigations, the possibility of charges being brought against some MPs for fraud is a real possibility.  No wonder the electorate in general view Parliament with complete and utter contempt.  Seeing and hearing our MPs squeal and make excuses for their actions does nothing to restore any confidence in any of them.  Coupled with the disastrous problems surrounding the Government's leadership, we have all seen the 'rats deserting the sinking ship'.  Has the gravy train finally run out for many of them?  Let's hope so. 

Our MPs’ abuses have been exposed, and root and branch reform of the expenses system is now being looked at.  Desperate to try and save themselves and restore some level of confidence and trust, our MPs are now showing a more humbled manner.  They need to remember that they are elected and to treat their position with respect.  Attitudes must change. MPs can be deselected. 

Knowing that a system is fundamentally wrong and open to abuse should always result in reform.  Yet when it comes to council tax, our politicians shy away from it.  Why though? Could it be that for many of their members it has been a ‘nice little earner’? These people have a basic salary of nearly £65,000 each year and yet many of them not only claim back their council tax but also add on a bit more for the effort of making the claim. (To rub salt into the wound, in a number of cases where MPs have failed to pay their council tax, attempts have been made to recoup from their expenses the cost of the liability order issued by the Magistrates Courts!) 

Or could it be that 'the problem' is now so big that no politician or party has the strength of character required to undertake the reform so desperately needed. The recent Lyons Inquiry which took three years to report was immediately shelved by Gordon Brown.  When faced with a difficult decision, he 'bottled it'.

Ignoring 'the problem' won't make it go away.  MPs have known since 2005 that hundreds of thousands of properties are in the wrong council tax band and are being overcharged.  Their response is to do nothing.  Just like the expenses abuses, it is OK to rip off the taxpayer one way or the other. Council tax payers have been abused with year on year inflation busting increases ever since Labour came to power in 1997 and Gordon Brown has ruthlessly exploited the weaknesses of the council tax system (but, of course, blamed the local authorities for the increases). 

Council tax is now overly excessive. A tax based on the value of the property that you live in does not reflect your ability to pay that tax. Pensioners and the low paid are struggling to pay. Of course this wretched Government will say ‘that is why we have the benefit system’. Those of us who have managed to save a little towards a reasonable retirement will, of course, not be included – because – according to the formula used by this Government our savings are earning £1 per £100 per month. Those not yet retired but with savings are deemed to receive £2 per £100 per month. In fact, there is nothing. No interest, no income equals poverty for many and an ever lengthening line at the council offices to try to claim council tax benefit. What they are doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and Paul is already a wealthy MP!! And we maintain that a taxation system that has to have a benefit system to make it work is just wrong.

The system is fundamentally flawed.  It needs to be replaced with a fairer, more transparent system that takes into account ability to pay. 

Isitfair now calls on Parliament and the Government to take the tough decision to look at root and branch reform of the council tax system.  If MPs are serious about restoring confidence and trust, resolving the council tax problem would be a step in the right direction. 

[end of press release] 

For further press information, please contact: Christine Melsom on 01428-712680 or E-mail c@isitfair.co.uk 

Issued by Isitfair Campaign, Headley, Hampshire GU35 8PJ

 

View Article  Council Tax Cover Up

Council Tax Cover Up

Scrap this rotten system now

25 May 2009
Hundreds of thousands of properties are still in the wrong council tax band despite this problem being known about since at least 2005.  This cover up was originally reported in February 2008:

 

Is your property in the wrong band? Up to 400,000 properties are possibly affected.  This has been known about since 2005 but Ministers decided to do nothing.  Read more...

 

New documents have shown that more than 700,000 households may have been overcharged to the tune of tens of millions.  Yet again, council tax payers continue to be ripped off by this thoroughly discredited taxation system:

 

700,000 overcharged in the great council tax 'cover-up' Read more...

 

Knowingly overcharging council tax payers is surely theft?  The current revelations about MP's expenses shows that this is a particular area of expertise for many of them.   Ripping off the tax payer one way or the other seems to be of no concern to them.  If these 700,000 properties were being under charged would they still turn a blind eye?

The council tax system is a thoroughly rotten system of taxation.  It was rushed through as a replacement for the poll tax, another disastrous system.  The system was not properly 'thought through' and its weaknesses have been ruthlessly exploited by Gordon Brown ever since Labour came to power in 1997.

The principle of the system is that the value of the property you happen to live in reflects your ability to pay the tax amount levied.  This is complete and utter nonsense, the arguments of which are well documented. Council tax has to be paid from whatever means of income you may have. It does not take into account your ability to pay that tax from whatever means of income you may have.

The amount raised by each local authority does not bear any relationship to the amount of their budget that they are free to decide.  For example, a local authority may raise 45% of its annual income via council tax but only have total discretion over say 6% of its budget.  This is a very high price to pay for local democracy.

The Government has no intention of changing the system to make it fair or equitable.  The annual tax amount is now £25bn.  Each year this amount increases and with it the problem becomes even harder to resolve.  The politicians of Government simply do not have the strength of character required to address this problem.  Government cynically blames the local authorities for the year on year inflation busting increases.  However, it is Central Government that is responsible for these increases through their manipulation of the grant system and unfunded additional responsibilities imposed on local authorities.

 

What to do now

We need a new system of local taxation that is fair to all.  It is possible and many countries have such a system.  Until this new system is implemented, we call for the current system to be scrapped.  Everyone in the UK benefits from local services one way or another.  Therefore, we believe that in the short term, IT and VAT should be raised to cover the cost of council tax.  Everyone will make a contribution and that contribution will be based on their ability to pay.

What to do next

Over the years, Isitfair has met with all of the three main political parties and has put forward alternative suggestions for council tax.  We also actively participated in the Lyons Inquiry.  However, nothing has changed and that is why we now believe that 'the politicians simply do not have the strength of character required to address this problem.'

We therefore urge everyone who believes that the current system is unfair to write to their MP asking them to take up the cause.  After all, MPs are supposed to represent their constituent’s views, aren't they?  Perhaps after the next general election we will have some new MPs who aren't afraid to tackle this problem.

View Article  Isitfair rates MPs expenses
Isitfair what do you think?
 
MPs' expenses furore.  Why did they do it?  Because they could, and because there were plenty more doing the same. It was there, so such a pity not to take it. 

The system is wrong and the system should be blamed along with the MPs who agreed that system and then worked it.  And if they felt no guilt, if in their consciences they truly believed that what they were doing was right, why did so many of them fight so hard to avoid publicity?

I despair of them. How long did they think they could get away with it? Presumably to have got that far, to have been elected Members of Parliament, they must be in possession of a modicum of common sense and intelligence. Surely in the back of their minds there must have been the question, "Is this right?", closely followed by, "What happens if it isn't and I am found out?" Paying back bits and pieces of the monies wrongly claimed is not the answer, the damage has already been done, they are only fanning the flames.

Benefits cheats, quite rightly, end up in court and are punished. Are they really any different?

Isitfair the independent campaign calling for the reform of the council tax system

www.isitfair.co.uk

View Article  Isitfair Member in Court for withholding Council tax

Council tax protester Terry Reilly, a long standing member of Isitfair, was in court again today -  for non payment of part of his council tax.  Below are his reasons.  The magistrate awarded costs to the council and issued another liability order.  Terry was well supported by a lusty band of fellow campaigners.

I plead not guilty under-paying £143.95 but I will admit to paying £450 more than I should have done.

As a lone pensioner I have paid £6000 to Mod Sussex District Council in the last 5 years in Council Tax. Whereas, a family in the average dwelling in Manchester have paid £3,800 . I am not a Council Tax rebel I am a Council Tax victim.

I attended this court in October last year and was given a number of assurances that were later denied. The assurances were given by Miss Cordery and Mrs Evans of Mid Sussex District Council and, because of them I was persuaded by them not to appear before the magistrates. My integrity was called into question by someone in Mid Sussex District Council who did not like the newspaper reports and I can no longer trust Mid Sussex District  Council.

I wrote to this court to ascertain what judgment was held against me.  I will read the response to you

“With reference to your letter dated 12/01/09 we would advise you that we have passed your letter on the Mid Sussex District Council for them to deal with . We do not keep a record of any individual council matters heard at court as the Council merely use the court as a venue to conduct their matters”

… I am concerned that a Court of Law does not keep records and I have to approach the prosecutors for such information.

I became aware of the seriousness of the situation in 2003-4 when Council Tax went up nationally by 12% but in Mid Sussex it went up by 18.4%  repeat – 18.4%

I then realised this was unsustainable and would lead to problems for pensioners, and those of fixed incomes and the lower-paid.  The Audit Commission  report also read “A general pattern emerges which shows that regions in the South with lower grant increases had higher council tax increases  and those in the midlands and the North with higher grant increases had lower council tax”

From time to time I have written to Central Government and the responses have been arrogant and patronising. For example, when I asked why Mid Sussex District Council had increased council tax by 154.4% in 11 years I was told that they had acted “within the rules” and the government would not defend me. I was also told that I could get free eye-tests, and council tax benefit was available when I had run out of money . I have also had meetings with my MP and have exhausted all the channels available to me.

Let me mention ‘Relative Resource Amount (RRA) . This allows central government to assume that in the South-East everyone is wealthy because property costs more. In 2008-9 West Sussex were surcharged £127 million whereas Durham were surcharged £40 million. Government grant /head was £124 in West Sussex but £300 in Durham.

Further examples:-

Council tax for ‘average dwellings were as follows:-

                                    Elmbridge (Surrey)      £1692

                                    Mid Sussex                  £1444

                                    Horsham                      £1488

                                    Durham                       £1060

                                    Manchester                  £768

This is the effect of political manipulation by central government by more than £600 per average dwelling

The government have decided that because I live in West Sussex I can pay more Council Tax than Jack Straw; Hazel Blears; John Prescott and Tony Blair

With a few exceptions (one being Westminster) the government have decided that if you live in a part of the country that does not have a Labour MP you will be punished financially .

If aid is required for some parts of the country let it be transparent and not from the pockets of pensioners in the South-East.

In 2004-5 when I first paid my council tax in line with the RPI the difference was £32.15, five years down the line it is now £143.95 which is more than 11/2 times the basic state pension, which., I remind you is the same amount nationwide. Mid Sussex District Council  as agents of central government have attempted to rob me of 11/2 week’s state pension.  This does not accord with pronouncements by government agencies and councils that we, the elderly should be cared for and respected.

AS at February 19th 2009 158 people owed £1000 or more council tax for 2007-8  Also, 459 owe over £1000 for 2008-9 This is in excess of £600,000 Where are these people?

I am a pensioner who has lived in this country since birth, and I am a law-abiding Christian.  I do not own a baseball bat or a Rottweiler, and, I am therefore a soft target.  I have to pay for all my needs including my own videos; bath-plugs and barbecues!

I have control over my water consumption by meter. I can turn down the thermostat and wear extra clothing to minimise my heating bills. There is no escape however from this iniquitous and regressive tax which is politically manipulated.

Perhaps an adjournment  to call a representative from Mid Sussex District Council to confirm or deny the validity of my figures would be appropriate, also, to confirm or deny that we in West Sussex are being taken advantage of.   If we look around, we do not see bankers, MP’s, Doctors accountants etc. We see retired people on fixed income and the lower paid.  They have one thing in common – they are hurting.

I urge you to not only sympathise with the plight of thousands of pensioners but to make it clear that you will not tolerate the political and financial abuse that I have outlined and I plead with you to find in my favour

I thank you for your time and courtesy

 
View Article  Council Tax. Isitfair member calls up the big guns

Council tax is already too high and unfair without being asked to pay more for a possible valuation office mistake.

Cyril Martin has been a member of the Isitfair campaign for some years.  He has appeared in court on several occasions for non payment of part of his council tax bill.  He thinks his house is in the wrong band and has fought long and hard for fourteen years to try to prove this. 

At last a BIG GUN has decided to take up his cause and last week Cyril received a visit from Oliver Letwin his MP and a Shadow Cabinet Minister.

Mr. Letwin decided that he would see for himself if Cyrils complaint has any foundation.  He came to the conclusion that it had.  "It was an open and shut case". The two houses opposite Cyril are just the same as his, but are banded one band lower.

Mr. Letwin has now become very involved in this issue and will be fighting Cyrils corner. He has written to the Chief Executive Officer of the Valuation Office.  He hopes that he will not receive a letter trying to explain why two identical houses can be treated so differently.

I will let you know of any developments.   Let's hope that the Valuation Office sees sense and puts his and his neighbours properties in the correct band. Preferably DOWNWARDS.

View Article  Council Tax Isitfair says that the Government must change

I am receiving e mails and telephone calls from our members regarding the payment of council tax over twelve months instead of ten.  These members are people who usually pay their council tax regularly and on time. 

Some pensioners and people on low incomes have asked Isitfair what they should do, having asked their councils to accept 12 instalments, and having been refused that option.  Write to your council, or ask to see the head of benefits, please do not rely on the woman in reception to say that ‘it's not allowed’.  If your paying record has been good in the past, there is no real reason to refuse your request.  I would have thought that receipt over twelve months was a better option that taking another pensioner to court for non payment

I have to say that our council is very sympathetic and ‘providing they get the tax’ will help you as best they can.  If they have no problem then why have others? Please don’t tell me it is a ‘jobsworth’.

The Local Government Act of 1992 states that councils can collect 10 or 12 instalments or even 52 – most of them insist on 10 payments. Time for them to show that they have a heart and to allow hard pressed council tax payers the choice in these unusually testing times

The present financial climate is putting a strain on many pockets where interest has been relied upon to produce a living income. The Government continues to use figures that are just a joke.  One Pound per Hundred Per Month interest and if you are not a pensioner, that rises to Two Pounds Per Hundred Per Month for others. I wish!!! Savings over £16,000 do of course, prevent you from claiming Council Tax Benefit. This ridiculous perceived interest rate must be brought down to a figure matching those rates truly available. If there has to be a limit on savings, then Sir Michael Lyons suggestion of £50,000 or even more, should be introduced immediately to alleviate some of the pain - until a fairer system is introduced.  Not that the income from that will be of much help. One thousand pounds left in a current account last month attracted six pence interest, this month it will be even less.

None of us wants to fall into the pit of benefits, but if the present situation is not dealt with, I can see thousands more having to apply for help, having been forced to spend their meagre savings which they have relied upon to maintain their homes.

The Government continues to spend, spend, spend while the needy are faced with a bill that, no matter what they may say, for many has risen by nearly 5% this year.  Not just this year, but year on year, on year.  For some of us our council tax will have almost tripled since its inception in 1993

View Article  Isitfair Council Tax Benefit interest rates must be brought up-to-date
Isitfair Council Tax Benefit interest rates must be brought up-to-date

I am receiving e mails and telephone calls from our members regarding the payment of council tax over twelve months instead of ten.  These members are people who usually pay their council tax regularly and on time. 

Some pensioners and people on low incomes have asked Isitfair what they should do, having asked their councils to accept 12 instalments, and having been refused that option.  Write to your council, or ask to see the head of benefits, please do not rely on the woman in reception to say that ‘it's not allowed’.  If your paying record has been good in the past, there is no real reason to refuse your request.  I would have thought that receipt over twelve months was a better option that taking another pensioner to court for non payment

I have to say that our council is very sympathetic and ‘providing they get the tax’ will help you as best they can.  If they have no problem then why have others? Please don’t tell me it is a ‘jobsworth’.

The Local Government Act of 1992 states that councils can collect 10 or 12 instalments or even 52 – most of them insist on 10 payments. Time for them to show that they have a heart and to allow hard pressed council tax payers the choice in these unusually testing times

The present financial climate is putting a strain on many pockets where interest has been relied upon to produce a living income. The Government continues to use figures that are just a joke.  One Pound per Hundred Per Month interest and if you are not a pensioner, that rises to Two Pounds Per Hundred Per Month for others. I wish!!! Savings over £16,000 do of course, prevent you from claiming Council Tax Benefit. This ridiculous perceived interest rate must be brought down to a figure matching those rates truly available. If there has to be a limit on savings, then Sir Michael Lyons suggestion of £50,000 or even more, should be introduced immediately to alleviate some of the pain - until a fairer system is introduced.  Not that the income from that will be of much help. One thousand pounds left in a current account last month attracted six pence interest, this month it will be even less.

None of us wants to fall into the pit of benefits, but if the present situation is not dealt with, I can see thousands more having to apply for help, having been forced to spend their meagre savings which they have relied upon to maintain their homes.

The Government continues to spend, spend, spend while the needy are faced with a bill that, no matter what they may say, for many has risen by nearly 5% this year.  Not just this year, but year on year, on year.  For some of us our council tax will have almost tripled since its inception in 1993.

View Article  Isitfair Council Tax Benefit interest rates must be brought up-to-date

I am receiving e mails and telephone calls from our members regarding the payment of council tax over twelve months instead of ten.  These members are people who usually pay their council tax regularly and on time. 

Some pensioners and people on low incomes have asked Isitfair what they should do, having asked their councils to accept 12 instalments, and having been refused that option.  Write to your council, or ask to see the head of benefits, please do not rely on the woman in reception to say that ‘it's not allowed’.  If your paying record has been good in the past, there is no real reason to refuse your request.  I would have thought that receipt over twelve months was a better option that taking another pensioner to court for non payment

I have to say that our council is very sympathetic and ‘providing they get the tax’ will help you as best they can.  If they have no problem then why have others? Please don’t tell me it is a ‘jobsworth’.

The Local Government Act of 1992 states that councils can collect 10 or 12 instalments or even 52 – most of them insist on 10 payments. Time for them to show that they have a heart and to allow hard pressed council tax payers the choice in these unusually testing times

The present financial climate is putting a strain on many pockets where interest has been relied upon to produce a living income. The Government continues to use figures that are just a joke.  One Pound per Hundred Per Month interest and if you are not a pensioner, that rises to Two Pounds Per Hundred Per Month for others. I wish!!! Savings over £16,000 do of course, prevent you from claiming Council Tax Benefit. This ridiculous perceived interest rate must be brought down to a figure matching those rates truly available. If there has to be a limit on savings, then Sir Michael Lyons suggestion of £50,000 or even more, should be introduced immediately to alleviate some of the pain - until a fairer system is introduced.  Not that the income from that will be of much help. One thousand pounds left in a current account last month attracted six pence interest, this month it will be even less.

None of us wants to fall into the pit of benefits, but if the present situation is not dealt with, I can see thousands more having to apply for help, having been forced to spend their meagre savings which they have relied upon to maintain their homes.

The Government continues to spend, spend, spend while the needy are faced with a bill that, no matter what they may say, for many has risen by nearly 5% this year.  Not just this year, but year on year, on year.  For some of us our council tax will have almost tripled since its inception in 1993.

View Article  Isitfair, Council Tax and the Elderly

Dear Dame Joan, 

Council Tax and the elderly. 

On behalf of Isitfair, the nationwide, non-Party political pressure group campaigning for the reform of Council Tax, congratulations on your appointment to the new and much needed rôle as the "Voice of Older People". 

Much has been said recently about people, particularly the elderly, being in fuel poverty (i.e. spending more than 10% of their income on heating) but many are also suffering to an even greater extent from what can be termed Council Tax poverty in that their Council Tax bills are even higher than their energy bills. 

Many older people (and some not so old) are seeing 15%; 20%, or more of their income gobbled up by Council Tax. And, Council Tax cannot be reduced by insulating the loft; fitting low-energy light bulbs, or turning the thermostat down a degree or two - and then "wearing two jumpers" - as recommended by Jake Ulrich, the managing director of Centrica in July 2008 as he pocketed his £1 million-plus salary. 

Many people, particularly the elderly, are now dreading the arrival of their Council Tax bills for 2009/10, many of which will be increased by between 3% and 5% when compared to last year's bills. 

I imagine that you will be aware of the cases where some pensioners, after exhausting all other means of trying to get the system of local authority funding changed, have, in protest, refused to pay just a fraction of their Council Tax - and been thrown in gaol for their efforts. 

These protesters have been even more incensed when they see Council Tax fraudsters, who have cheated the system out of £ thousands in some cases, get off with no more than a community order or some other slap on the wrist. Many are also incredulous when they learn of the astronomical salaries paid to executive officers in their councils and the amount of taxpayers' money that goes towards their guaranteed, final-salary pensions. 

It's not that we oldies don't want to contribute to the cost of local services - we just want a fairer system of charging. Isitfair and its supporters the length and breadth of the country would like to see this iniquitous and regressive tax replaced by a system of funding local government that is based on ability to pay and not on the estimated and forever fluctuating value of one's home. 

The need for reform is even greater now in light of the credit crunch; falling interest rates, and the aforementioned sky-high energy prices.

The Council Tax Benefit (CTB) system is not the answer. The 40-page application form is far too complicated and, surely, it must be the case that any tax that, for a growing number of people, relies on a benefit to enable payment has to be seriously flawed? 

Please take a look at our web site at www.isitfair.co.uk where you will see that we are a totally voluntary and non-party-political organisation. We depend entirely on voluntary donations - most of which are postage stamps. We have thousands of contacts on our email and postal mailing lists - many of whom are members of other like-minded groups across the country (Crawley Pensioners Group, Devon Pensioners Action Forum, to name but two) who distribute our newsletters to an even wider audience. 

We have organised two well-attended marches in London. We have delivered an 80,000+ signature petition to 10 Downing Street. We persuaded some 60 MPs to present petitions from the floor of the House of Commons, and we have had meetings - in Westminster - with MPs from all three main political parties to get our points across. All to no avail. We are still being hammered by inflation-busting increases in Council Tax. 

In the realisation that I will probably only get one chance to persuade you to take an interest in our campaign, I hope that this letter will encourage you to consider our plea and that you will, at the very least, spare some time to meet and talk with us. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,  

Mike Schofield

Isitfair committee member 

Cc: Christine Melsom

Email: c@isitfair.co.uk

Web: www.isitfair.co.uk

 

If you have written to Dame Joan as suggested in our last newsletter, and received a reply, we would be interested to hear

 

View Article  Isitfair Council Tax Was this to be our election carrot?
 

Isitfair Council Tax Reform Campaign

Read the section Pensioners Rate Relief about half way down the page

http://www.lpsni.gov.uk/index/rating/billing/getting_help_with_your_rates/housing_benefit_and_rate_relief.htm 

http://www.isitfair.co.uk/publicforum2/viewtopic.php?4650&sid=6486ae475b7546d92446ffe3eb3b2cb5

Rate Relief SchemeThe new Rate Relief Scheme helps you if you are

A pensioner and you have savings of less than £50,000
getting Housing Benefit for only part of your rate bill; or
just outside the income limit for receiving Housing Benefit.
Applying for Housing Benefit and Rate Relief[/b]

http://www.isitfair.co.uk/publicforum2/viewtopic.php?4650&sid=6486ae475b7546d92446ffe3eb3b2cb5


I understand that rate relief is the equivalent of council tax.  The level of savings is £50,000 for rate relief - raised as per Sir Michaels suggestion in the Lyons Inquiry.

Why if this is the case has this been done in Northern Ireland?  Is it because the people created such a fuss about revaluation?  Did this Government think that Northern Ireland was far enough away from the mainland that we would miss it?

No such luck. Maybe, just maybe it is to be our election carrot.

Christine

Isitfair is an Independent Campaign Calling for the Reform of the Council Tax System Please visit www.isitfair.co.uk

View Article  Council Tax and Interest rates

Council Tax Benefit.

Are you aware of the way this is worked out? I have checked the figures with a council tax benefit officer and they are as follows:

The first £6,000 of savings are ignored, thereafter the following rules apply:

Pensioners. For every £500 (over £6,000 and under £16,000) you are deemed to receive £1 income per week.  So on £1,000 the interest is perceived to be £104 pa when in fact the interest rates have not produced that amount of cash for many years, and certainly now £10-20 pa is more the norm – and decreasing as I write.

Non Pensioners. For every £250 (over £6,000 and under £16,000) you are deemed to receive £1 income---- per week.  So for every £1,000 the interest is perceived to be a stonking great £208 pa.

Anyone just over the limit might just as well take a holiday!!

And incidentally - if you know where we can get 10% interest on our savings - please, please let us in on your secret.

View Article  Council Tax Benefit

Council Tax Benefit.

Are you aware of the way this is worked out? I have checked the figures with a council tax benefit officer and they are as follows:

The first £6,000 of savings are ignored, thereafter the following rules apply:

Pensioners. For every £500 (over £6,000 and under £16,000) you are deemed to receive £1 income per week.  So on £1,000 the interest is perceived to be £104 pa when in fact the interest rates have not produced that amount of cash for many years, and certainly now £10-20 pa is more the norm – and decreasing as I write.

Non Pensioners. For every £250 (over £6,000 and under £16,000) you are deemed to receive £1 income---- per week.  So for every £1,000 the interest is perceived to be a stonking great £208 pa.

Anyone just over the limit might just as well take a holiday!!

And incidentally - if you know where we can get 10% interest on our savings - please, please let us in on your secret.

View Article  Council Tax, Isitfair? I don't think so
Council tax, a fair tax? I don't think so

Some Random Thoughts by Janet Kelly

It has for some considerable time been a complete mystery to me how anyone can think council tax a fair tax. For example, the two council areas with respectively the highest and lowest average council tax per dwelling are two adjacent London boroughs. How can this be? And why is it that we, in our modest home in rural(ish) Hampshire, pay more for our local services than residents in similar properties in other areas of the country? Are our pensions higher because we live here? No, of course not. Are wages and salaries higher here? No, they are not. Why do we pay more for our local services than, for example, Mr and Mrs Tony Blair and their ilk in their palatial properties in Westminster? These are just a few examples; there must be thousands illustrating just how illogical, inconsistent and monumentally unfair council tax is.

The answer to these questions, of course, has rather less to do with the efficiency or otherwise of our local councils (although many of them, despite their squeals of protest, embrace with unseemly enthusiasm any new legislation which means they can employ more staff), than with the notoriously complicated and skewed grant system and a one size fits all (which it doesn’t) banding system.

Neither the Labour Party (who can see nothing at all wrong with council tax) nor the Conservative Party (who find nothing wrong with the principle – they invented it after all - but blame the current unfairness and inconsistencies on the government’s manipulation of the grant system) have any intention of getting rid of it. The Liberal Democrats would replace it with a local income tax, but a study of their policy papers reveals a rather unhealthy interest in land value tax, not only for business premises but also for domestic properties.

But it has to be faced. Politicians must accept it. Council tax in its present form is so flawed that it needs at the very least an urgent and truly radical overhaul. It was apparent from the responses to Isitfair’s recent survey that it is generally agreed that too much is expected of council tax, and that any tax raised locally should be used to fund only things which are decided locally. There perhaps is the starting point.

There was a time not so long ago when, deservedly or undeservedly, it was apparently estate agents who were the most despised in our society. Now – aside probably from the bankers and financiers – it must surely be the politicians. So, here is their chance to improve their image. They may feel that council tax reform, in the current financial climate, is not a high priority. They should remember that for many of us it is far and away the highest entry on our bank statement and for most others it is second only to their mortgage payment.

In my household one of us yells at the TV, the other hurls the newspaper in disgust. How can it have come to this? Why is the country in such a mess? The ruling party may well have led us here, but from where I’m sitting it looks as if Her Majesty’s Official Opposition has for quite a lot of the past ten years turned rolling over and playing dead into a fine art. Maybe that’s unfair, but if they have been opposing behind the scenes they need to learn to shout it from the rooftops. And get noticed. Well, now is their chance: impress us by leading the way with some meaningful proposals for council tax reform. That’ll be a start.

Note from Christine: Representatives of Isitfair met with Eric Pickles, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons for an hour on 10 November last. We felt it was a worthwhile meeting. We noted with some satisfaction his scathing comments on excessively high salaries paid to council chief executives; we were informed of Conservative proposals to encourage and enable cross boundary co-operation between councils for cost cutting and efficiency purposes; and that a Conservative Green Paper on Local Government is to be published shortly. Isitfair was promised a copy. We were also warned that any major reform in the council tax system would have to be phased – it could not be otherwise.

View Article  Isitfair Council Tax Christmas Carol

www.isitfair.co.uk our Christmas Carol  

While savers watched their stocks in fright,
All beaten to the ground,
An angle for our Gordon Brown,
To claim he'd pull things round.

Cheered not are we for nigh no bread,
Has left us in a bind,
Mad musings that from Gordon spring,
Are not for what we've pined.

For us in every house we pay,
A tax that's like a fine,
An impost for our bed and board,
A penalty condign.

"So pay the council and you'll find,
A sense that when you've paid,
Of meanness in your housing Bands,
That justifies my raid."

Thus spake the PM and forthwith,
Appeared a whining throng,
Of people cursing Gord who thus,
Was now proved in the wrong.

And so we bleed for Gord, oh sigh!
For us he'll always fleece,
Hell take so much and leave us then,
Without a penny piece.

 

  Isitfair The Nationwide Campaign Calling For The Reform Of The Council Tax System.  Please visit www.isitfair.co.uk

View Article  Council Tax Deputation re Hampshire County Councilliors Allowances

Deputation Hampshire County Council Thursday November 20th, 2008

 

Good morning everyone nice to see you all again.

In September, the Isitfair campaign made a submission about councillors’ allowances before the Independent Review Panel.

 

We already knew that the Cabinet of Hampshire County Council would not be seeking an increase in salary and that councillors would accept a rise in line with employees of Hampshire County Council.  I have to say that we were well received by the Paneland that they listened very carefully to everything we had to say.

 

A few weeks later we sat in on a meeting of the Governance Committee who we understood would examine the findings of the Review Panel. 

 

In the past we have said that national politics should not play a part in local government and I still feel that should be the case.  Not so the councillors. Invariably on contentious issues, they split down party lines.  But not this time. Oh no.  There was complete unity between the parties and what I witnessed did them little credit.  The Review Panel stood little chance of surviving the intentional destruction of their thoughts and ideas. It has been suggested on occasion that I might seek election as a councillor, but if this is what happens to ones integrity, I want no part of it.

 

Much of what the Panel had to say included the concerns of our campaign. 

 

The unaccountability of councillors and lack of transparency were among those concerns.

 

We also observed that over the last ten years the cost of councillors in HCC had risen by more than £1 million.

 

Now,

Who runs the council? Is it you? That SHOULD be the case, but unfortunately for us, since this Government decided to force the Cabinet system into local government, 69 of you have been disenfranchised (your Leader’s words not mine).  As one councillor has said, “As far as I am concerned there is no democracy in councils since the cabinet system was introduced. Apart from the chosen few, the rest of us might as well go home until the next election.”

 

Not only are you disenfranchised, but you are much more expensive.

Over the whole of Hampshire (excluding Southampton and Portsmouth) councillors now cost over £5.5 million pounds. Interestingly, the biggest jump was in 2000/2001 when the cabinet system was introduced. You may think this is peanuts, but just imagine how many council tax bills that would pay.

 

On to transparency,

 

In a recent Isitfair survey across the country, 94% said that information about their councillors should be in the public domain and easy to find. They believe that elected representatives need to be transparently open. After all, what have you to hide?

 

One of the other points we made to the IRP was the ability of councillors to make a good living from the public purse without revealing the true extent of that living.  Not just from Hampshire County Council, but all other bodies – other Councils, Police, Fire, SEEDA, etc.,

 

Actually one can’t help wondering how they manage to give the necessary time to each and every one of these functions and, in some cases, have regular employment or run a business.

 

And yet, when we asked our members the question, Do you know what additional positions your councillor holds in your county and district, and whether your councillor sits on more than one council or publicly-funded body, the vast majority of them said no. 

 

Every committee, county wide and nationwide, that councillors sit on should be listed on line, in public libraries etc, so that the electorate can see just what their councillor does.  He/she should also reveal any interests that could possibly conflict with their public office.  MPs have to make this information available to the public, why should councillors be any different? 

 

Perhaps better use could be made of your on line profiles. How long is it since you looked at yours and those of your fellow councillors? Do you think that they are acceptable to the electorate?  What does it say when looking through Councillors’ profiles we find this: little more than name, and party and ‘what do you think of my dodgy photo’.  I suppose that is eight words more than the rest. We, the electorate are being treated with some contempt. 

 

The IRP made reference to earlier aims to make those elected more representative of the population of Hampshire. Now, there are always exceptions to the rule, but I personally do not think that being a councillor is a young persons forte.  The young should be out there, having fun, getting married and having a family and concentrating on earning a living. People who spend their lives in local government and then graduate into national politics, gain little knowledge as to how the other half live.  When they have experience of life - that is the time to put something back into the community.

 

 

We should remember that some councillors receive over £50,000 from the public purse, thus joining over nine hundred other employees of the council.

 

In 1996/7 there were 54 employees being paid £50k or more In 2007/8 there were 916

 

The salary bill for the 54 people was about £3.5 million.

 

The salary bill for the 916  has rocketed to somewhere between £51 million and £61 million.

 

Our collective minds boggle. How can this possibly be justified? I have on previous occasions urged you to stand firm against the unfunded burdens handed down by central government . May I now draw the attention of the Conservative councillors among you to the words of Eric Pickles published earlier this year:

 

"Over the past 10 years Conservative local authorities have cooperated with the government to make the best of ill thought out plans and deliver the best possible results for local residents. Swamped by ever changing government targets, overburdened by red tape and overloaded by regulation we have delivered quality services and low council tax. The time is overdue for Conservative Councils to stand up to this bullying and controlling government on behalf of their communities. It is time for Conservative councils to ‘just say no.’"

 

That is what he said.  I cannot agree with the council tax being “low”, but of course, the paltry and diminishing grants from Central Government make low council tax almost impossible.

 

And lastly, as I have on this occasion kept off the subject of council tax I would like to remind you that the Isitfair campaign for the reform of the council tax system is alive and well, and living in over 80 per cent of local authorities in England and Wales.

 

Thank you for your attention.

 

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