HL Deb 27 April 1995 vol 563 cc1023-4

3.16 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many appeals against decisions on banding for council tax purposes are still outstanding, and whether council tax payers face demands for payment on the basis of such bandings, and when it is anticipated that those appeals will be dealt with.

The Earl of Lindsay

My Lords, 76,106 of the 864,136 initial appeals lodged in England, 5,936 of the 53,948 lodged in Wales, and 12,090 of the 98,236 lodged in Scotland were outstanding at the end of March. All but a handful of those appeals are expected to be settled by the summer. Council tax bills for all dwellings, including those that are subject to appeal proceedings, are calculated on the basis of the bands shown in valuation lists. If a banding is subsequently found to have been too high, any excess payments are refunded or credited against future bills.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that reply. However, is it not a fact that where an appeal is submitted, the tax payer is compelled to pay the full amount claimed and has to await a decision on his appeal? Further, is it not also a fact that those appeals are handled by the Inland Revenue which is being very dilatory in dealing with them?

The Earl of Lindsay

My Lords, if we allowed council tax payers to pay bills on the basis of the band that they claim rather than the band that they have been designated, it would open the floodgates to many opportunistic claims. It would also tempt people deliberately to delay making settlements. The appeals are heard by valuation tribunals which are independent bodies. Their impartiality has not been in doubt.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, will the noble Earl pay particular attention to appeals submitted from the borough of Basingtoke and Deane, which I understand is of particular interest to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter? Further, will the noble Earl confirm that the percentage settled in the year 1994–95 is only 19 per cent. and that, therefore, 81 per cent. of claims are still outstanding? Will the noble Earl ask the Inland Revenue to get on with them?

The Earl of Lindsay

My Lords, as I said, it has nothing to do with the Inland Revenue. I cannot comment specifically on the settlement rate in Basingstoke and Deane. It is less a matter for the Government than for the valuation tribunals. I should stress that of the 23.5 million dwellings originally banded for tax, only 4 per cent. of bandings were disputed. We now have approximately 90 per cent. of those claims settled.