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Local Government Finance

Volume 170: debated on Thursday 19 April 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he has given to any changes in the basis of community charge for 1991–92.

The underlying principle of the community charge is that almost all adults should pay something towards the costs of local services. There are no proposals for changing that principle.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance he has given to local authorities on the procedures to be adopted for the levying of the community charge on properties which become vacant and available for sale on the death of the home owner; if he will take steps to prevent local councils from levying a double community charge in cases where the properties have not become available through the process of probate or where the ownership of the property is subject to division in consequence of the terms of the will of the deceased; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 18 April 1990]: The Secretary of State has prescribed that no standard charge is payable in respect of unoccupied property which has become vacant on the death of the owner, and with respect to which no grant of probate or letters of administration have been made or less than three months have elapsed since the day on which a grant of probate or letters of administration were made. Local authorities have discretion to extend this period or set a standard charge multiplier lower than the maximum for such a period as may be specified by the authority.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish a table showing (a) the total amount of community charge benefit to be paid in 1990–91 and (b) the expected community charge benefit caseload for 1990–91 on the basis of (i) the Government's estimates of community charge levels and (ii) the actual levels of community charge which have been set.

[holding answer 22 March 1990]: I have been asked to reply.The Public Expenditure White Paper (Cm 1014) stated that £1·82 billion would be spent on community charge benefit in 1990–91, and that there would be an average of 7 ·9 million community charge benefit cases in 1990–91 on a Great Britain basis. More recent estimates suggest that £2·5 billion will be spent on community charge benefit in 1990–91, and that the number of benefit cases will be in excess of 8 million on a Great Britain basis which, since a couple are treated as one benefit unit, equates to about 10 million individuals. The caseload estimates mean that about one in four of all individual charge payers will be helped by community charge benefit.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish a table in the Official Report showing actual or, where not available, budgeted expenditure for all local authorities in England and Wales in each of the last three years, and the proposed expenditure in 1990–91, showing percentage increase, for each authority, and giving total expenditure for all authorities in each year.

Total expenditure for English authorities in 1987–88, 1988–89 and 1989–90 is £25,686, £27,736 and £29,563 respectively. The figures for 1987–88 and 1988–89 are latest estimates of outturn expenditure, where available, and the figure for 1989–90 is local authority budgeted expenditure. Information is not yet available for 1990–91.I am arranging for details of budgeted expenditure for individual local authorities in England to be placed in the Library of the House.The information relating to Welsh local authorities is a matter for the Secretary of State for Wales.