Trust wardens 'face unfair tax bills'

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WARDENS looking after some of the National Trust's most prestigious properties are finding themselves assessed for council tax as if they were the lords of the manors.

Some wardens living in flats in former servants' quarters and attics, and earning about pounds 11,000 a year, are having their homes valued in excess of pounds 320,000. They face council tax bills of up to pounds 1,000 a year. Assessors have apparently concluded that they have full use of the mansions and should pay accordingly.

Ian Blaikie is the National Trust's live-in administrator at Lanhydrock House near Bodmin, Cornwall, which has 40 rooms and 22 acres of grounds open to the public.

Mr Blaikie has a two-bedroom flat assessed at band H. An assistant who lives in another flat in the house has been put in band B. Mr Blaikie said: 'The assessors obviously thought that as administrator I had the run of the house and grounds - which certainly isn't the case.' Several other wardens' accommodation has also been rated at H or G.

Helena Graham, a spokeswoman for the Inland Revenue, which organised the valuations, said any problems may have been caused by the drive-by assessment of properties for the tax. 'It wouldn't be possible to tell from the outside that somebody doesn't have the free run of the property.'

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment confirmed that a caretaker's flat in a National Trust property should normally be treated as a separate dwelling and banded accordingly.