Part 6: Council Tax
Section 74: Exception of students from joint and several liability
135.Section 6 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (‘LGFA 1992’) provides, broadly speaking, that where two or more people have an equal legal interest in a dwelling, they shall be jointly and severally liable to pay the council tax.
136.Section 9 provides that spouses and a man and a woman who live together as husband and wife are jointly and severally liable to pay the council tax, even if they do not have an equal legal interest in the dwelling.
137.At present, students, as defined in paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the LGFA 1992, are disregarded for the purpose of a discount. Therefore, the liability for council tax for a dwelling whose residents were a student and someone who is not a student (and is not otherwise disregarded) would be calculated as if the dwelling had only one resident, and would therefore be subject to a 25% discount under section 11 of the LGFA 1992. Other categories of people, including the severely mentally impaired, are also disregarded for the purposes of council tax under Schedule 1 to the LGFA 1992.
138.Exempt Class N, contained in the Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) Order 1992 (S.I. 1992/558), made under section 4 of the LGFA 1992, provides an exemption from council tax in certain circumstances for dwellings occupied solely by students or occupied as term-time accommodation by students.
139.However, where a dwelling is occupied by a student and non-student, although disregarded for the purpose of a discount, the student can still be held jointly and severally liable for council tax, under either section 6(3), or, where the student and non-student are spouses as defined in section 9 under section 9(1).
140.Section 74 amends sections 6(4) and 9(2) of the LGFA 1992 to remove students from joint and several liability where they are a spouse or living with someone as husband and wife, or where they have an equal legal interest in the dwelling, for financial years beginning on or after 1 April 2004.
141.Exemptions already apply where students and people with a severe mental impairment live together and there are no other residents.
Sections 75 and 76: Discounts and exemptions
Section 75: Discounts - special provisions for England and Wales
142.Section 11 of the LGFA 1992 provides for nationally set council tax discounts. Currently under section 11(1) there is a discount of 25% where there is only one resident, or all but one of the residents fall to be disregarded for council tax purposes, and under section 11(2) there is a discount of 50% where there is no resident or all residents fall to be disregarded. Billing authorities in Wales already have power under section 12 of the LGFA 1992 to reduce from 50% to 25% or, to remove, the discounts which would otherwise apply under section 11. English authorities have no such power at present.
143.Subsection (1) of section 75 inserts a new section 11A into the LGFA 1992 which enables the Secretary of State to prescribe by regulations classes of dwellings in England where a billing authority may change the level of council tax discount. Under subsection (3), the Secretary of State may prescribe a class of dwellings where the billing authority may reduce but not remove the discount, and the regulations may not allow for the discount to be less than 10%. It is proposed to make regulations under this subsection to define a class of second homes which are not owned by persons required to live in tied accommodation elsewhere because of their work. Under subsection (4), the Secretary of State may prescribe a class of dwellings where the billing authority may reduce or remove completely the discount. It is proposed to make regulations under this subsection to define a class of long term empty homes (which are not exempt dwellings). In either case, the billing authority may determine to change the discount in all or part of its area. Subsection (5) requires the authority to make such a determination before the start of the financial year, and subsection (6) requires such determinations to be published in newspapers circulating locally.
144.Subsection (2) of section 75 replaces the existing section 12 of the LGFA 1992 with a new version, giving the National Assembly for Wales (“the NAW”) and Welsh billing authorities equivalent powers to those conferred by subsection (1) on the Secretary of State and English billing authorities. Subject to the exercise of these powers by the NAW, Welsh billing authorities will be able to do so for only part of their areas.
145.Subsections (3), (4) and (5) of section 75 are transitional provisions. They preserve in force the effect of existing regulations prescribing classes of dwellings for which Welsh billing authorities can reduce the 50% discount to 25% or zero, and preserve the effect of any existing determinations to reduce discounts made by Welsh authorities. While section 75 will give Welsh authorities greater flexibility, these transitional provisions ensure that Welsh authorities are not forced to take new decisions if they would not have decided differently under the new powers.
Schedule7: Minor and Consequential amendments
Paragraphs 41, 42,49 and 50: determinations to reduce discounts
146.Paragraph 41 of Schedule 7 amends section 11 of the LGFA 1992 to make clear that any discount under that section must take effect subject to any determination the authority has made, under the new section 11A inserted by section 75, to reduce or remove discounts.
147.Paragraph 42 amends section 13(3) of the LGFA 1992 to ensure that any reductions under regulations under section 13 apply on top of any discounts under s11A.
148.Paragraph 49 of Schedule 7 amends section 66 of the LGFA 1992 to provide that a determination by a billing authority to reduce or remove the discount under the new section 11A or 12 of the LGFA 1992, inserted by section 75, can only be challenged by judicial review.
149.Paragraph 50 of Schedule 7 amends section 67 of the LGFA 1992 to require the determination to reduce or remove discounts in accordance with the new section 11A or section 12 inserted by section 75 to be made by the full council and not delegated.
Section 76: Billing authority’s power to reduce amount of tax payable
150.Under the LGFA 1992, dwellings may be exempt from council tax if they fall within one of the exempt dwelling classes set out in an order made under section 4 of that Act (S.I. 1992/558). The amount of council tax payable may be subject to a discount under section 11 (where there is one or no resident, or all, or all but one of, the residents fall to be disregarded), or in Wales, under section 11 to the extent that the authority has not exercised the discretion under section 12 to reduce the discount. Finally, the amount may be reduced through the effect of regulations made under section 13 of the LGFA 1992, e.g. where it is occupied by a disabled person: see the Council Tax (Reductions for Disabilities) Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/554). All of these exemptions, discounts and reductions are prescribed in orders or regulations made by the Secretary of State, or in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales.
151.Billing authorities do not, at present, have a discretion to grant further discounts and exemptions, or to remit or waive council tax on hardship grounds. Authorities do not have the power to respond to hard cases which do not fall within any of the centrally prescribed categories.
152.Section 76 inserts a new section 13A into the LGFA 1992 which will give billing authorities in England and Wales a broad discretion to reduce the amount of council tax payable as respects a dwelling, to such extent as they think fit. Subsection (2) of the new section 13A provides that this may include reducing the amount payable in respect of a day to nil.
153.Authorities may exercise this power in individual cases (e.g. individual hardship, in cases where the taxpayer is not eligible for council tax benefit, for example, where the dwelling is not their sole or main residence). Or they may determine classes of case in which liability is to be reduced (i.e. the equivalent of authorities determining exempt dwellings classes, or reductions in circumstances other than those prescribed in regulations under section 13 of the LGFA 1992).
Schedule 7: Minor and Consequential amendments
Paragraph 53(3): treatment of discretionary reductions for council tax administration purposes
154.Paragraph 53(3) of Schedule 7 amends Schedule 2 to the LGFA 1992 by inserting a new paragraph 21, in consequence of section 76.
155.Paragraph 21(2) of Schedule 2 to the LGFA 1992 provides that where an authority has made a determination of a class of case in which council tax liability is to be reduced to nil, the dwelling shall be treated as an exempt dwelling for the purposes of Schedule 2 to the LGFA 1992. Paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 of Schedule 2 to the LGFA 1992 allow regulations to be made in relation to exempt dwellings. Such regulations could also be made in relation to dwellings subject to a 100% reduction under section 76 as a result of paragraph 53(3) of Schedule 7. These could, for example, require the billing authority to notify the person who would otherwise be liable for council tax of various matters. These include the dwelling’s entry in the valuation list, any assumptions made that a 100% reduction applies, and requiring the person to notify the billing authority if he has reason to believe that the assumptions were inaccurate.
156.Where the authority’s determination is to reduce the amount payable for the class of dwellings other than to nil, the new paragraph 21(3) inserted into Schedule 2 of the LGFA 1992, provides for the dwelling to be treated for the purposes of that Schedule as if it were subject to a discount (i.e. a discount under section 11 or section 12 of that Act). Regulations may be made under paragraphs 4 and 5 of that Schedule e.g. requiring the authority to take reasonable steps to ascertain the applicability of any discounts, notify the liable person of assumptions made following such steps, requiring the taxpayer to notify it if he believes the assumptions to be incorrect. Such regulations could also be made, as a result of paragraph 53(3) of Schedule 7, in relation to discretionary reductions.
Sections 77 and 78: Valuation Lists and Bands
Section 77: Statutory revaluation cycle
157.For non-domestic rates, there is a statutory requirement (under the Local Government Finance Act 1988) for new valuation lists to be compiled every 5 years (commonly known as revaluation, since the rateable values of hereditaments subject to the non-domestic rate are included in the lists under section 42(4) of that Act). However, there is currently no such requirement for council tax valuations to be updated, and new council tax valuation lists prepared, under the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (‘LGFA 1992’).
158.Dwellings are currently included on valuation lists originally drawn up on 1 April 1993, and assigned to one of eight valuation bands based on their 1 April 1991 values. At present, under the LGFA 1992, a revaluation will only take place for council tax if the Secretary of State (or in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales (‘the NAW’)) makes an order under section 5(4) of the LGFA 1992 substituting new bands for the current valuation bands, with new lists based on a new valuation date prescribed under section 25 of the LGFA 1992.
159.Section 77 inserts section 22B into the LGFA 1992, which will provide for a statutory revaluation cycle for the council tax in England and Wales. Section 22B(2) will require new lists to be compiled and come into force for England on 1 April 2007 and 1 April 2005 in Wales.
160.Section 22B(3) requires that further new lists must be compiled and come into force no more than ten years after the date of the previous (2005 and 2007) lists. This means that the period between revaluations will be no longer than 10 years. However, the Secretary of State (for England) and NAW will be able to make orders under that section to require the compilation of new lists (and hence revaluation) sooner. The Secretary of State's orders will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure (subsection (11)).
161.Subsections (4) and (5) of section 22B provide for the coming into force of new lists and their maintenance. Subsection (6) provides for the listing officers to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that lists are accurately compiled - it is this subsection which in effect provides for the revaluation of dwellings.
162.Subsections (7) to (10) of section 22B impose certain duties on the listing officers to compile and send copies of the new lists to billing authorities and for billing authorities to deposit the lists at their principal offices and give notice that they have done so.
163.Subsections (4) to (10) closely follow provisions in section 22 of the LGFA 1992 which provided for the original council tax lists to be compiled, except that in future the listing officer will be required by section 22B(7) to send a proposed (i.e. draft) list to the billing authority on one occasion rather than two as required in section 22(5) of the LGFA 1992.
Schedule 7: Minor and Consequential amendments
Paragraphs 44 to 48, 52 and 53(2): amendments consequential on section 77
164.Dwellings are currently assigned to a valuation band based on their 1 April 1991 values, in accordance with section 21(2) of the LGFA 1992. Paragraph 44 of Schedule 7 amends section 21, by inserting new subsections (2A) and (2B) to enable valuations to be as at a new valuation date. The new date will be either two years before the date the next revaluation is due (e.g. for the first English revaluation, 1 April 2005); or, a date during that two year period specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State or NAW.
165.Paragraph 45 of Schedule 7 ensures that an original list will remain in force until the date on which the new list is compiled.
166.Paragraph 46 of Schedule 7 amends section 24(9)(b) of the LGFA 1992. Section 24 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations about the alteration of valuation lists. Subsection (9)(b) currently refers to copies of lists deposited by the authority under section 22(8) or section 22A(10) (which related to the compilation of new lists following local government reorganisation in Wales). New lists will be deposited under section 22B(10), not section 22(8), so paragraph 46 amends section 24(9)(b) to refer to section 22B(10).
167.The current section 25 of the LGFA 1992 enables the Secretary of State (in Wales, the NAW) to require a new valuation list to be compiled and decide the new valuation date and when the new list should come into effect. This general power is being replaced by a fixed revaluation cycle. Paragraph 47 of Schedule 7 will make section 25 no longer effective.
168.The current section 28(2)(a) of the LGFA 1992 governs a person's right to inspect the valuation lists. Paragraph 48 of Schedule 7 will apply that right to the new lists, and proposed new lists, compiled under section 22B.
169.Paragraph 52(4) of Schedule 7 amends section 113(3) of the LGFA 1992. Section 113(3) provides that all orders or regulations made by the Secretary of State or the Treasury under that Act shall be subject to the negative resolution procedure, save for listed exceptions. Paragraph 51 adds to the list of exceptions orders under the new section 22B(3)(a), i.e. orders bringing forward revaluations from the 10 year cycle, which will be made by affirmative resolution procedure (see subsection (11) of the new section 22B inserted by section 77). Paragraph 52 also amends section 113 to provide that any power of the National Assembly for Wales to make orders or regulations under the LGFA 1992 shall be exercisable by statutory instrument.
170.Paragraph 8 of Schedule 2 to the LGFA 1992 enables regulations to be made requiring billing authorities to notify owners of exempt dwellings of the valuation band the property has been assigned to in proposed lists. Paragraph 53(2) of Schedule 7 enables such regulations to cover the new lists, and proposed new lists, prepared under section 22B.
Section 78: Power to change number of valuation bands
171.There are currently eight valuation bands (A-H), with different bands in England and Wales, set out in subsections (2) and (3) respectively of section 5 of the LGFA 1992. Under section 5(4)(b) of the LGFA 1992 the Secretary of State (in Wales, the NAW) has power to substitute different bands for the existing bands. Section 78 amends section 5 of the LGFA 1992, by inserting a new subsection (4A) which makes clear that the Secretary of State (in Wales, the NAW) can vary the number of bands at the time of revaluation. The Secretary of State‘s orders under section 5 of the LGFA 1992 (including under new subsection (4A) ) will be subject to affirmative resolution procedure in the House of Commons.
Section 79: Transitional arrangements
172.Revaluation is likely to affect the amount of council tax individual households pay. New bands with new thresholds will be substituted, by order under section 5(4)(b) LGFA 1992, for the existing bands set out in subsections (2) and (3) of that section, as part of the revaluation process, since dwelling values have increased since the original thresholds were set. Dwellings may go up one or more bands whilst others may go down.
173.When the council tax was introduced, transitional reductions regulations were made under section 13 of the LGFA 1992. However, section 13 only allows regulations to be made which would reduce what would otherwise be the council tax liability for the dwelling.
174.Section 79 inserts section 13B into the LGFA 1992. This section will enable the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales to make regulations to phase in changes to council tax bills following revaluation, i.e. following the compilation of new lists under section 22B inserted by section 77, or following the making of an order under section 5 substituting new valuation bands or different ratios between the bands.
175.Section 13B(3) will allow regulations to provide for the council tax liability in respect of a particular dwelling to be higher or lower than it would otherwise be. Liability may be made higher than it would otherwise be where a dwelling moves down one or more bands as a result of revaluation, and lower, where a dwelling moves up one or more bands. The equivalent section which applies to non-domestic rating (currently section 58 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, but see also the new section 57A inserted by section 65 of the Act) contains similar provision to allow increases as well as decreases in what would otherwise be the liability.
176.Subsections (3) and (4) of the new section 13B give flexibility to develop schemes which will cover one or more years and to apply different rules in different years.
177.Subsection (5) enables regulations under the new section 13B to make consequential amendments to social security legislation. This may be needed for council tax benefit purposes.
Sections 80 to 82: Enforcement
178.Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 enables the Secretary of State (in Wales the NAW) to make regulations allowing local authorities to secure payment of any outstanding sum specified in a liability order. A liability order must be obtained from the magistrates’ court before any of the other enforcement steps can be taken. The detailed requirements are set out in the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/613).
Section 80: Amendments relating to distress
179.Under paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992, regulations can be made allowing billing authorities to make an attachment of earnings order, so that the outstanding council tax can be recovered by requiring the debtor's employer to deduct amounts from the debtor’s pay. Quite often, a local authority only finds out about a debtor's employment details late in the enforcement process, after the authority has tried other enforcement mechanisms provided by regulations under Schedule 4, including seeking to levy distress (permitted by regulations under paragraph 7 of Schedule 4), and if that proves unsuccessful, by applying to magistrates for a warrant to commit the debtor to prison (permitted by regulations under paragraph 8 of Schedule 4).
180.For example, a person may only reveal their employment details during a hearing of an application for a warrant of commitment, since the magistrates are required to inquire into the debtor’s means before they can issue a warrant of commitment. Where this happens, rather than proceed with the hearing of an application for a warrant of commitment, the billing authority is likely to serve an attachment of earnings order. However, only the amount specified in the original liability order can at present be recovered through attachment of earnings. This will include the outstanding amount of council tax, plus a sum in respect of the costs of obtaining the liability order (in accordance with regulations made under paragraph 3 of Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992). It will not, however, include any costs incurred trying to levy distress after the issue of the liability order or any costs incurred during the committal hearing itself.
181.Section 80(1), (2) and (3) will enable costs incurred in trying to levy distress or incurred during the aborted hearing of an application for a warrant of commitment to be recoverable through an attachment of earnings order.
182.Section 80(4) amends paragraph 7 of Schedule 4 to the LGFA by inserting a new sub-paragraph (4A). This will enable regulations to be made by the Secretary of State (in Wales the NAW) to prescribe information which authorities or bailiffs must supply to debtors when distress has been levied or when distress has been attempted unsuccessfully. The existing paragraph 7(4)(a) of Schedule 4 only allows the imposition of requirements on local authorities to supply information prior to the levy of distress. There are no powers to impose requirements to supply information when the process is complete or when someone tries to levy distress but fails.
Schedule 7: Minor and Consequential amendments
Paragraph 54: Exercise of powers by the NAW under section 80
183.Paragraph 54 of Schedule 7 amends Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 in consequence of subsections (2) and (3) of section 80. These subsections refer to prescribed amounts in relation to the costs of the application for commitment which can be included in the attachment of earnings order.
184.Paragraph 54 of Schedule 7 defines prescribed as prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State, in relation to England, and by the NAW in relation to Wales. Because subsections (2) and (3) confer a new power on the Secretary of State to prescribe amounts in regulations, this power has not already been devolved to the NAW under the National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1998 (S.I. 1998/672) which provided for other functions under Schedule 4 (except those under paragraph 6) to be exercisable by the NAW.
Section 81: Charging orders: aggregation
185.Paragraph 11 of Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 enables billing authorities to apply to the county court for a charge against the debtor's dwelling for which the council tax remains unpaid, in respect of a liability order made by the magistrates’ court. Regulation 50 of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 stipulates that at the time of the application for the charging order, at least £1000 of the amount for which the liability order was made must remain outstanding.
186.Section 81 enables local authorities to aggregate two or more liability orders made against the same person to meet the £1000 threshold for making an application for a charging order. The section inserts a new paragraph 11A into Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 to allow regulations made under that Schedule to include appropriate provision.
Section 82: Quashing of liability orders
187.When a taxpayer falls behind with their council tax, billing authorities have to apply to the magistrates’ court for a liability order before they can seek to use various powers to recover the debt. There are relatively few defences against the making of a liability order - these include the fact that an amount has not properly been demanded or that the amount has been paid. Unless a defence is accepted by the court, the order will be granted. In practice very few are refused.
188.However, it can emerge after the order has been made that a mistake has occurred, for example, the taxpayer may later find receipts proving that he had paid. In such cases, no action should be taken under the liability order. However, some taxpayers view the liability order as an unwarranted stain on their character and demand that the liability order be deleted from the record. At present, this can only be achieved on application to a higher court. The cost involved is unwarranted where there is no dispute about the facts.
189.Section 82 (which inserts into Schedule 4 to the LGFA 1992 a new paragraph 12A) allows the Secretary of State (in Wales the NAW) to make regulations giving magistrates' courts powers to quash a liability order if the court is satisfied that the liability order should not have been made. This only applies where the local authority has applied to have the liability order quashed. It does not give council taxpayers a right to require magistrates' courts to reconsider all liability orders made.
190.New paragraph 12A(b) enables regulations to be made permitting the magistrates' courts to substitute a liability order for a lower amount where it considers that a liability order could properly have been made had it been made for that lower amount (which would include a sum for the costs incurred in obtaining the original order).
Section 83: Major precepting authorities: combined fire authorities
191.Section 83(1) adds combined fire authorities (‘CFAs’) in England established under section 6 of the Fire Services Act 1947 (‘FSA 1947’) to the list of major precepting authorities in section 39(1) of the LGFA 1992. Twenty four CFAs were established in the former county council areas affected by local government reorganisation in England between 1996 and 1998. These CFAs were established by combination schemes set out in orders made by the Secretary of State under section 6 of the FSA 1947. The constituent authorities (whose representatives make up the CFAs) are district and county councils, or in some areas just district councils.
192.At present, section 5(2)(c) of the FSA 1947 requires combination scheme orders to include provision for the contribution to the expenses of CFAs by the constituent authorities. Under these orders, the constituent authorities currently contribute to the CFA’s expenses in proportion to their council tax bases.
193.As major precepting authorities, CFAs will be required under section 40 of the LGFA 1992 to issue a precept or precepts for each financial year. The precepts will be issued to billing authorities (district councils) in their areas. Each precept will have to state the amount of council tax that has been calculated for each category and band of dwelling in the area, and the total amount payable to the CFA by the council to which it is issued.
194.Paragraph 1 of Schedule 7 amends section 6 of the FSA 1947. Its effect is that combination scheme orders made for CFAs in England need not contain provisions as to the contributions to the CFA’s expenses to be made by the constituent authorities. Such provision will not be required as Chapter 4 of Part 1 of the LGFA 1992 will make the appropriate provision instead.
195.Part 2 of Schedule 8 details the extent of the revocation of the provisions in the combination scheme orders which currently provide for the contributions of the constituent authorities to the CFA’s expenses, consequent on section 83(1). These provisions will not be needed since the provisions in Chapter 4 of Part 1 of the LGFA 1992 which govern the calculation and issue of precepts will apply instead to determine authorities’ contributions.
196.Subsection (2) of section 83 provides a power to allow the National Assembly for Wales to make an order to add Welsh CFAs to the list in section 39(1) of the LGFA 1992. Subsection (3) provides that the National Assembly for Wales should consult such representatives of local government and other bodies and persons as it considers appropriate, before it exercises the order-making power.
197.The National Assembly for Wales would (by virtue of section 123 of the Act) be able to include in such an order the necessary consequential amendment to section 6(1A) of the Fire Services Act 1947 (which is to be inserted by paragraph 1 of Schedule 7), so that combination scheme orders for Welsh combined fire authorities need not contain provisions as to the contributions to the CFA’s expenses to be made by the constituent authorities. Section 123 would also allow the National Assembly for Wales to make consequential amendments, equivalent to those contained in Part 2 of Schedule 8, to the combination scheme orders establishing the Welsh combined fire authorities.
Section 84: Amendment of section 67 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992
198.Section 84 amends section 67 of the LGFA 1992 so that a full council meeting is no longer required to adopt the council tax base that is used when setting council taxes.
199.The items T referred to in paragraphs (a), (c) and (f) of subsection (2A) to be inserted into section 67 of the LGFA 1992 by subsection (3) of section 84, are the tax bases for the whole of an authority’s area (respectively, for a billing authority, major precepting authority other than the Greater London Authority (“the GLA”), and the GLA). Billing authorities must notify major precepting authorities of their tax bases in a prescribed period: the tax base for the whole of a major precepting authority’s area is the aggregate of that for the billing authorities in the area. The Local Authorities (Calculation of Council Tax Base) Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/612) (as amended) set out how these amounts are calculated, and how they are determined if a billing authority fails to notify the major precepting authority.
200.The items TP referred to in paragraphs (b), (d) and (e) of subsection (2A) are the tax bases for the relevant part of an authority’s area to which a special item relates. They are respectively for part of a billing authority’s area (e.g. the area of a parish for which the parish council issues a precept), part of the area of a major precepting authority other than the GLA (e.g. the area of part of a county in respect of which a levy is issued to a county council) and part only of a billing authority’s area, which forms part of a major precepting authority’s area in respect of which the major precepting authority has power to issue precepts. Item TP2 in section 89(4) of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, referred to in paragraph (g), is the tax base for the Metropolitan Police District (i.e. the area of the London boroughs only) in respect of which the Metropolitan Police Authority, financed through the GLA, provides police services.
201.Paragraph (h) of subsection (2A) makes clear that a full council meeting is not needed when e.g. a major precepting authority determines the tax base for part of a billing authority’s area as part of determining its own tax base (e.g. where the billing authority had failed to notify it of its tax base during the prescribed period).
Section 85: Vacant dwellings: use of council tax information
202.Billing authorities will collect information about the numbers of empty (vacant) homes in their area which are exempt dwellings for council tax purposes. Many local authorities employ empty property officers whose role is to identify empty homes and develop policies and initiatives to bring them back into use. The presence of empty homes can lead to social, economic and environmental problems (e.g. reduce neighbouring property values, encourage vandalism and increase the pressure on housing stock and land for development).
203.The LGFA 1992 does not contain clear provision allowing information collected pursuant to council tax powers under that Act, to be used for other purposes. The Information Commissioner has issued guidance advising authorities that they cannot use council tax data for other purposes.
204.Section 85 inserts a new paragraph 18A into Schedule 2 to the LGFA 1992 to allow a billing authority to use information it has obtained for the purpose of carrying out its council tax functions for the purpose of identifying vacant dwellings or taking steps to bring vacant dwellings back into use. New subparagraph 18A(2) limits the extent of personal information which may be shared to an individual’s name or an address or number (e.g. telephone number) for communicating with him.
205.The Government is conscious that it is arguable that allowing the use for other purposes of personal data collected for council tax purposes may in some circumstances constitute an interference with an individual’s right to privacy protected by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is considered that any data sharing permitted under section 86 does not interfere with an individual’s right to privacy. The data will be used only by the billing authority which collected it and it will be used only for public functions in the public interest. Section 85 does not permit disclosure to third parties such as commercial organisations.
Section 86: Repeal of section 31 of the Local Government Act 1999
206.Section 31 of the Local Government Act 1999 was needed to help implement the council tax benefit subsidy limitation scheme which required authorities to contribute to the costs of council tax benefit where their council tax exceeded a threshold set by the Government. Section 31 allowed regulations to be made requiring payments by major precepting authorities (county councils, police authorities, the Greater London Authority, metropolitan county fire and civil defence authorities) whose council tax exceeded the thresholds, to billing authorities (in England, district councils, London borough councils, the Common Council of the City of London, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, county councils with the functions of district councils, and in Wales, the county and county borough councils). Billing authorities are responsible for administering council tax benefit.
207.With effect from 1 April 2002, the scheme was no longer operated in England. The NAW had ceased to operate the scheme earlier in Wales.
208.Section 31 is redundant and this section repeals it.
Schedule 7: Minor and Consequential amendments
Paragraph 43: Completion notices
209.When new dwellings are nearing completion, billing authorities can serve a ‘completion notice’ on the owner of a building if it can reasonably be expected to be completed within three months, under section 17 of the LGFA 1992 which applies Schedule 4A to the LGFA 1988 for the purposes of the council tax. A completion notice specifies the day which the authority proposes as the completion day for the building.
210.There is a right of appeal to a valuation tribunal against a completion notice under paragraph 4 of Schedule 4A of the LGFA 1988. Paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 4A provides that where an appeal is not withdrawn or dismissed, the completion day shall be such day as the tribunal shall determine. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 4A provides that where no appeal is brought, or any appeal is dismissed or withdrawn, the day stated in the notice shall be the completion day in relation to the building.
211.However, section 17(4) of the LGFA 1992 contains an error. Section 17(4) defines ‘the relevant day’ in relation to a completion notice, for the purposes of section 17(3). Section 17(3) provides that where a completion notice is served under Schedule 4A to the LGFA 1988 and the building to which the notice relates is not completed on or before the relevant day, any dwelling in which the building or any part of it will be comprised shall be deemed for the purposes of Part 1 of the LGFA 1992 to have come into existence on that day (i.e. on the relevant day).
212.In paragraphs (a) and (b) of section 17(4) of the LGFA 1992, the words ‘an appeal’ and ‘no appeal’ appear to have been transposed. The effect is that, if the provision is applied literally, if an appeal against the completion notice is successful, the relevant day in relation to a completion notice will remain the day shown in the notice. However, where no appeal is made against the notice, the relevant day will be the day determined under the Schedule, i.e. on appeal, by the tribunal.
213.If an appeal against a completion notice is upheld, the date of the completion notice should be the date determined by the tribunal. Conversely, if there is no appeal, the date should be the original date on the notice.
214.Paragraph 43 of Schedule 7 rectifies this error. Paragraph 43(2) of Schedule 7 provides that the correction will apply to any completion notice served on or after the day of coming into force of that section. It will also apply to any completion notice served prior to that date which is or becomes subject to an appeal on or after the coming into force of that section.