Group Leader, Upminster & Cranham Residents’ Association, LB Havering
Treasurer of Local Government Association Independent Group.
“AT the mere mention of Council Tax, many people will say they are paying too much, what’s it for anyway and why are there different charges?
In terms of its composition, the current system came into effect in 1993 following the ill-fated ‘poll tax’. The new system required each property to be placed into one of eight bands (A-H) based on sale value as at April 1991.
This exercise was carried out by the Valuation Office Agency (not the Council), largely by driving up and down roads making a judgement.
When a property is extended or significantly modified through planning approvals, the Valuation Office will designate the property for review next time it is sold (not at the time of improvement), this is invariably a review upward, so the new owners are likely to pay more than the previous occupants.
However, valuations are not always correct, and it is very surprising how different they can be in a single road. It is very simple to check your Council Tax band and those of your neighbours by visiting the Valuation Office website at https://www.gov.uk/council-tax-bands, type in your postcode and the bandings of all properties in that vicinity will appear.
Having done this and you think that your property is out of kilter with your neighbours, you can appeal directly to the Valuation Office and request a reassessment at https://www.gov.uk/challenge-council-tax-band or call 03000 501 501.
I have helped several residents in securing a successful review, but it is just worth bearing in mind that appeals on banding valuations can go up as well as down.
On the same theme, I also give talks on Scams to residents and community groups as part of the ‘Friends Against Scams’ initiative. One of the scams that often crops up is fraudsters getting in touch with householders claiming that their Council Tax band is wrong and that they are due a backdated refund.
All they need are your bank details and perhaps a small administrative fee to process the claim and your refund will be with you within days! Of course, this is a total scam and all they really want are your personal details in order to empty your bank account. Householders should simply refuse any such approach, if in doubt call Citizens Advice Consumer Help Line on 03456 040506.”