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Rating Reform

Volume 130: debated on Thursday 31 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last met representatives of English local authorities regarding the poll tax; and what matters were discussed.

My right hon. Friend and I frequently meet representatives of English local authorities in the course of official business and discuss many aspects of the proposed community charge.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the average community charge and the national non-domestic rate that would be levied in 1988–89 if the Local Government Finance Bill were in force.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has received any analysis from the Association of District Councils regarding the costs of collecting and administering the poll tax in Nottingham.

The Association of District Councils undertook a survey last year of the preparation and collection costs of the community charge. From this survey the association extrapolated national estimates but did not supply figures for individual authorities nor offer analysis of their estimates. Nottingham is one of the sample authorities included in the study now being undertaken by Price Waterhouse for my Department.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimate he has made of the initial costs which will be incurred by Eastbourne borough council in setting up the administrative machinery for the proposed community charge in each of the two years ending 31 March 1989 and 1990 and of the annual administrative costs thereafter; and what financial assistance is proposed to be made by his Department towards those costs.

My right hon. Friend included estimates of these costs for all charging authorities in the financial memorandum to the Local Government Finance Bill. I have announced initial capital allocations totalling £25 million towards these costs in 1988–89, which will be distributed to authorities including Eastbourne borough council within the next few days. We shall reflect the further resources needed in 1989–90 and subsequent years in future capital allocations and grant settlements.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from member of religious orders seeking exemption from the community charge; and what response he intends to make.

I have received a number of representations from members of religious orders. The Government propose to table amendments to the Local Government Finance Bill which will have the effect of exempting from the community charge members of religious orders the principal occupation of which is devoted to prayer, contemplation, the relief of suffering, education or such other activities as may be prescribed. The exemption will be limited to those who are dependent on their communities for their material needs, and who have no income or capital of their own.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what is the average cash figure paid by the lowest paid 5 per cent. of households under the present system towards the cost of local services; what this amount is as a percentage of their average after-tax income; and what these figures will be when the community charge is implemented;(2) what is the average cash figure paid by the highest paid 5 per cent. of households under the present system towards the cost of local services; what this amount is as a percentage of their average after-tax income; what these figures will be when the community charge is implemented; and what the above figures will be when the income tax changes proposed in the Budget are implemented.

[holding answer 23 March]: Households contribute to the cost of local services both directly via local taxation and indirectly via national taxation. Assessments of the size of contributions rely on data from the family expenditure survey. Limitations in the sample size prevent reliable estimates of the relative contribution of the highest and lowest paid 5 per cent. of households.