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Rating Reform

Volume 124: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the total annual revenue which will be collected by Harrogate borough council from the community charge levied on individuals and from the business rate, as proposed in the Local Government Finance Bill; and what is the total revenue raised under the present system in the current financial year.

In 1987–88 Harrogate borough council, on its own behalf, and on behalf of the authorities which precept on it, is thought to be raising £38·6 million from local ratepayers: £16·8 million from non-domestic and £21·8 million from domestic rates. Because authorities in the area are drawing from balances these figures are £2·2 million lower than is necessary to fund reported net expenditure.The illustrative figures for the full implementation of the community charge in Harrogate after withdrawal of the safety net assume a total revenue raised from community charges and business rates in Harrogate of £39·6 million; £16·3 million in non-domestic rates and £23·3 million in community charges. These figures assume that there is no contribution from balances.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will describe the manner in which parish councils will receive grants in respect of non-domestic rateable income under the community charge.

Parish councils, like county and district councils, will meet their net expenditure requirements by drawing on a collection fund maintained by the district council. Into this fund will be paid the whole amount of revenue support grant and redistributed non-domestic rates allocated to the area, which will thus be available to set equally against the expenditure of all tiers of authority. I have sent my hon. Friend an information note for parish councils on how they will be financed under the new system: copies have also been placed in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of community charge preparation costs which local authorities are likely to incur in 1988–89.

It is doubtful whether local authorities will need to incur significant expenditure in preparing for the community charge as early as 1988–89. To the extent that additional costs do arise, we believe that these can be accommodated within the RSG settlement.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will break down his estimated full year total additional cost to local authorities of the community charge system by class of authority.

No such breakdown is available. We expect the cost, per person of collecting the community charge to be broadly the same as the cost per hereditament of collecting domestic rates.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will break down his estimate of full year total additional costs to local authorities of the community charge system showing separately staff costs, computing, premises and other costs and capital and revenue.

It is not possible at this stage to disaggregate the broad estimates given in the explanatory and financial memorandum to the Local Government Finance Bill of additional costs to local authorities of implementing the community charge. The requirement for additional staff, computer facilities and premises will vary considerably between local authorities.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from organisations representing disabled people as to disabled people's future community charge liability.

We have had representations from the Spastics Society, the Voluntary Organisations Personal Social Services Group, the Disabled Drivers Association (Bournemouth and District), the Disabled Income Group and the British Limbless Ex-Servicemens Association.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has further to publicise his proposals to reform local government finance.

I and my Ministers will continue to make speeches pointing out that although the hon. Member has no desire to defend the status quo, he has not seen fit to propose an alternative to put in its place.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations have been received from the Police Federation about the future community charge liability of police officers and their dependants, and the future of police officers' rent and rates allowances.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimates he has made of the numbers of extra staff and their professional qualifications and grades that local authorities will need to employ to implement and run the community charge system.

It will be for local authorities to decide the numbers of additional staff they require, their grading and appropriate qualifications.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has yet had any discussions with the local authority associations, to the Local Government Training Board, or The Local Authorities' Conditions of Service Advisory Board about the staffing requirements for community charge registration and collection.

Staffing is one of a number of issues which my officials will be discussing with the local authority associations in the run up to the introduction of the community charge.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of community charge cases he estimates are likely to result in increased workload for magistrates' courts on recovery of community charge debts.

I have no reason to believe that the introduction of the community charge will significantly increase the workload of magistrates' courts.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he still plans to publish before the Christmas recess updated figures on the effects of his proposed changes to local government finance, taking into account the updated tax-benefit model and other data.