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Local Government Finance

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 27 June 1990

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

17.

to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has had any recent representations seeking replacement of the community charge with a tax on property values.

I continue to receive a good number of representations on all aspects of local government finance. Some of them are in favour of a tax based on property values, but such a tax would exhibit all the unfairness of the rating system.

to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the assumed rate of poll tax collection he is using in formulating his grant proposals for 1991–92.

[holding answer 26 June 1990]: My right hon. Friend expects to make his proposals in respect of the local authority grant settlement for 1991–92 later this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he has taken to monitor the level of poll tax collection in England for 1990–91.

[holding answer 26 June 1990]: As with other aspects of the community charge my Department is monitoring closely the progress which authorities are making with collection. We have been in touch with a number of authorities and have included relevant questions in a quarterly statistical survey of all charging authorities to be made in July.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assumptions he made on poll tax collection rates in formulating his grant settlement for 1990–91.

[holding answer 26 June 1990]: The assumptions in respect of, among other things, any surplus or shortfall in the yield from community charges for 1990–91 are set out in footnote 2 on page 2 of the revenue support grant distribution report (England) which was approved by the House on 18 January 1990.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list for each charge-capped local authority the information he considered, other than that submitted by the authority itself or already held by his Department, in formulating his proposal for the level of their cap.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when, subject to the approval of Parliament, he intends that the poll tax cap for Lambeth should take legal effect in respect of the poll tax to be paid.

[holding answer 25 June 1990]: My right hon. Friend will lay before the House of Commons a draft order setting out his decisions on the final cap of Lambeth once he has considered fully the arguments which the council has put forward in support of its case for a higher figure than the cap which he proposed. If the House approves the draft order my right hon. Friend will make it and a statutory notice confirming the final cap will be served on the council as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter. The authority then has 21 days to set a revised budget; a new community charge must be set as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter. Until a new charge has been set charge payers in Lambeth are liable to pay the charge originally set.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will update to 1990–91 the answer given to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) on 2 February 1989, Official Report, columns 359–60, showing the distributional effect of the community charge in comparison with domestic rates;(2) if he will update to 1990–91 the answer given to the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) on 2 February 1989,

Official Report, columns 359–60, showing the numbers of gainers and losers by family type and income band from the introduction of the community charge.

[holding answer 13 June 1990]: The information requested has been placed in the Library. The figures have been calculated on the same basis as those which were placed in the Library on 15 February showing the distributional impact of the community charge. Equivalent income has been calculated using the McClements scale factors.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to ensure that all student nurses, whether undertaking training on Project 2000 or on any other undergraduate nursing course, are eligible for 80 per cent. community charge relief for 1990–91; and if he will make a statement.

Under the Personal Community Charge (Students) Regulations 1989 (S.I. 1989–443) all nurses training under Project 2000 and all pre-registration undergraduate nursing students are already elegible for the student relief from the personal community charge.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to arrange for patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis to be exempted from the community charge.

Resident hospital patients and those cared for in residential care homes, nursing homes or hostels are exempt from the personal community charge. In a small number of cases multiple sclerosis can cause severe intellectual deterioration. Most such sufferers are in residential care and are therefore exempt on those grounds; those who are still living in the community will be exempt on the grounds of severe mental impairment if they are entitled to a prescribed benefit and have been stated to be severely mentally impaired in a certificate of a registered medical practitioner.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether his Department has received a copy of "Coping with the Community Charge? The Preparations for Implementation" published by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux in April; and if he will make a statement on representations received from the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Copies of the report were received by my Department last April. My officials will shortly be meeting representatives of the national association to discuss its contents.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received regarding Mr. and Mrs. Western of Beechdale, Nottingham, regarding lack of relief from the poll tax; and if he will make a statement.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will raise the amount of central Government grant for Nottingham city council.

Nottingham city council's grant was calculated on the same basis as for all other authorities. This basis was approved by the House on 18 January and we have no plans to make changes for the current year.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidelines his Department is issuing to general practitioners regarding the criteria used for assessing people as being eligible for exemption from the community charge on the grounds of brain damage.

Guidelines to general practitioners on the criteria to be used in assessing eligibility for the exemption from the community charge on the grounds of severe mental impairment are issued by the Department of Health. Guidance was originally issued in a letter from the Department of Health, dated 3 November 1989; further guidance is to be issued shortly and this will be copied to charging authorities by my Department.

115.

to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what a person on average male earnings would pay in local income tax in 1990–91 in order to raise the same amount of revenue as the community charge on average in England.

The level of local income tax payable by a person on average male earnings would depend on the tax allowances available to that person.Illustrative figures placed in the Library on 4 April showed that, on average, the bill payable in England by a person with a taxable income of £12,800 would be £725.

112.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from county councils about their standard spending assessments.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike).

113.

to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance he has issued to local authorities on whether councillors who are refusing to pay their community charge are entitled to vote on decisions which affect their council's policy towards the pursuit of community charge defaulters.

It is a criminal offence for a councillor, except in the circumstances specified in statute, to speak or vote on a matter in which he or she has a pecuniary interest. Paragraph 8 of the national code of local government conduct, which was approved by both Houses of Parliament, reminds councillors of this. If a councillor is in arrears on any payment due to the council, this can constitute pecuniary interest in questions relating to the collection of such arrears. Paragraph 31 of the code also advised councillors that they should avoid placing themselves in a position that could lead the public to think that they are receiving preferential treatment, for instance, by being in substantial arrears to the council.

105.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received regarding the community charge.

I continue to receive a number of representations on a wide range of matters concerning the community charge.

106.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate how many people have refused to pay the community charge; and if he will make a statement.

This information is not available centrally and there are very few cases of wilful refusal to pay.

107.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has recently calculated the cost to (a) a man on average male earnings and (b) a woman on average female earnings of a system of local government finance based on capital value rates with a local income tax element based on Kirklees council's 1990–91 budget.

No. Figures were placed in the Library on 4 April showing possible tax rates with a system of either capital value rates or local income tax based on local authorities' reported 1990–91 levels of income. From these, illustrative bills showing the effect of combining the two taxes can be calculated by taking the appropriate proportion of each.

103.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what would be the average capital value rates bill in England in 1990–91 on a property worth (a) £50,000, (b) £75,000 and (c) £100,000 in order to raise the same amount of revenue as with the community charge.

Figures placed in the Library on 4 April show illustrative levels of capital value based rates in 1990–91 were such a system to be used to raise the same amount nationally as the community charge. The implied average bills in England for properties worth (a) £50,000, (b) £75,000 and (c) £100,000 are £528, £792 and £1,056 respectively.

100.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from local government organisations in favour of replacing the community charge with a roof tax.

98.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what he estimates will be the effect on the community charge in 1991 of the pay settlement for local government staff.

The effect of the local authority pay settlement on community charges will depend on the extent to which authorities feel obliged to reduce the numbers employed to accommodate the settlement.It is important that local authorities should make every effort to keep their expenditure under control so that community charges are set at a reasonable level.

91.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to meet local authority leaders to discuss the introduction of a roof tax in place of the community charge.

93.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to amend the community charge legislation; and if he will make a statement.

The Government have already announced that they intend to bring forward legislation to amend the law on the standard community charge as it relates to caravans.

48.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what interested groups, including local authority organisations, he has invited to submit views on changes to the community charge; and if he will make a statement.

94.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what interested groups including local authority organisations he has invited to submit views on changes to the community charge; and if he will make a statement.

A large number of views on the community charge have been received, some solicited and others unsolicited.

40.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many suggested alternatives he has received for amending the community charge; and if he will make a statement.

The Department continues to receive a good many representations and suggestions on all aspects of local government finance.

62.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he can take against councils who refuse to use their powers to pursue community charge defaulters.

Financial propriety is a matter for the local authority's auditor. Under section 20 of the Local Government Finance Act 1982 where a loss has been incurred or deficiency caused by the wilful misconduct of any person, the auditor shall in carrying out his audit certify that the amount of the loss or deficiency is due from that person and may recover that amount for the benefit of the authority. Where a loss has been incurred as a result of wilful misconduct, those responsible are liable to be surcharged for the amount involved. Where they are councillors, and the amount exceeds £2,000, they are automatically disqualified from being a councillor for five years.

84.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if Britons living abroad registering to vote in the United Kingdom will be liable to pay the poll tax in the local government area where they register.

A person is subject to the personal community charge if he or she has his or her sole or main residence in England, Wales or Scotland and is not exempt. Anyone living abroad may be subject to the standard charge if they have a relevant freehold or leasehold interest in a domestic property where no one is solely or mainly resident regardless of whether that person is or is not on the electoral register.

69.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last examined the standard spending assessments allocated to local authorities for their capital programmes.

The basis of the capital financing standard spending assessment is set out in the revenue support grant distribution report (England) approved by the House on 18 January.

64.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to publish his alternative proposals for the operation of the community charge; and if he will make a statement.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to publish his alternative proposals for the operation of the community charge; and if he will make a statement.

We expect to complete our review of the operation of the community charge in the next few weeks.

41.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether his Department is considering any further modifications to the poll tax; and if he will make a statement.

We are reviewing the operation of the community charge to see whether any anomalies need to be addressed.

34.

to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many people are registered to pay the community charge; and how many ratepayers there were in the last year for which figures are available.

The latest information for England available to the Department shows that 35–98 million people were registered on 1 December 1989 as subject to a personal community charge, while on 1 April 1989 there were 18·92 million domestic hereditaments on the valuation list.

20.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if his review of the poll tax has taken into consideration capacity to earn in relation to ability to pay.

Ability to pay is already taken into account by the provision of community charge benefit which is expected to give about one in four charge payers a reduction of up to 80 per cent. of the full community charge.National taxes finance the largest share of local government spending and the top 10 per cent. of households by income pay about 15 times as much towards the cost of local government services as the bottom 10 per cent.

22.

to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the progress of his review of the community charge.

36.

to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the progress of the Government's review of the poll tax.

We are continuing to review the operation of the community charge to see whether any anomalies need to be addressed.