Letter: Claims of 'uproar' over council tax unfounded

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THE evidence for the 'uproar' ('Uproar predicted over council tax', 13 September) appears to lie in this department's provision for a possible 1 million council tax appeals. In a country of 20 million homes, an appeals rate of 5 per cent (from which the 1 million is derived) can hardly be said to be distressingly high.

Some people - those at the margins of valuation bands, for example - appeal in the hope of paying a lower bill; others may appeal out of confusion about the nature of their valuation. Articles such as this risk adding to the latter through omission and misrepresentation.

Rosie Waterhouse implies that valuations ought to be based on current actual values rather than a single valuation date. Since actual values change almost every day such an approach would be impossible.

You claim that in areas where house prices are low 'a hard- pressed family on a run-down council estate will be paying about as much as a well-off family in a spacious-semi'. This assumes that the two properties have been placed in the same valuation band. But while the council property is quite likely to have been placed in the lowest band, the 'spacious semi' would have had to be valued at less than pounds 40,000 in order to join it.

A hard-pressed family is very likely to qualify for an income- related rebate. A family on income support would pay nothing. Where an area is one of low property values, the local council will receive more grant for all spending up to its recommended level. So there is no foundation for the article's assertions.

Michael Howard

Secretary of State for the Environment

London SW1