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Rates: Northern Ireland

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 2 May 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the Rates Collection Agency calculated the domestic rates transition relief in Northern Ireland for 2007; and how information on the relief was communicated to the public. [HL3313]

Transitional relief for 2007 was assessed by comparing what the rates would have been under the previous rental (NAV) system against the bill calculated under the new capital value system. The 2007 NAV calculation was based on a notional poundage figure, comprising what the regional and district rates would have been had the NAV system remained in place. Transitional relief was automatically applied to those bills where the increase between the notional bill and the actual bill under the new system was more than 33 per cent.

An announcement was made on 3 July 2006 by the Minister of State, the right honourable David Hanson, that there would be a transitional relief scheme and on how it would be assessed. In addition this was communicated to the public by way of a leaflet enclosed with each rate bill.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action the Rates Collection Agency took to increase the capacity of the domestic rates help line; and whether the action taken was sufficient. [HL3314]

In preparation for the issue of the new rate bills the agency substantially increased the number of staff available to answer calls, linked into a new call-handling system, and increased the number of telephone lines available.

The agency answered over 27,000 calls during the week commencing 16 April 2007; and, taking into account the other areas of the business which needed to be covered by staff, I am satisfied that this action was sufficient.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the information contained in the leaflet sent to ratepayers in Northern Ireland about the domestic rates transition relief was accurate. [HL3315]

The leaflet sent to ratepayers had an inaccuracy in the section referring to transitional relief. The words “would have” were omitted in error from the following sentence:

“if your rate bill has increased by more than 33 per cent above the amount you would have paid in rates for this property under the old NAV system, transitional relief will be provided automatically over a three year period".

The agency has apologised to ratepayers for the error but it has also confirmed that the rate bill calculation is correct where transitional relief applies.