I was walking past the doctors the other day and the snow had been on the ground for around three days yet the car park and walkways were still iced over with compacted snow clearly causing problems for patients, slipping and sliding all over the place, especially the brave older ones who had ventured out to get their prescriptions etc. I though it rather odd that somebody from the surgery or the perfunctory next door chemist hadn't attempted to clear a route when you consider if the customers did slip and snap something they would just be putting more strain on the health service at this time of the year, fractures up 140% this winter in Northampton alone. Surely the council had enough money to salt the health complexes like this one? It turns out that if the chemists or surgeries do salt or clear snow and someone falls over and breaks something on that area the surgeries and chemist are liable to a law suit under health & safety law because they are part private businesses and so responsible for the condition of the land. It seems and unbelievable irony and somewhat paradoxical but that was the case. Bizarrely it's safer for them all around to leave the paths well alone, regardless of how many people fall over. My sister manages a chemist in Luton and this is exactly what they are told. These absurd health and safety laws mean we have got to this point where old folks going to the doctors are only viewed as potential law suits. Why on earth aren't doctors on £115,000 salaries responsible for keeping the external areas of the surgery safe?? Because they refuse to do it the council don't have to pick up the obligation. When we were kids most house owners cleared their bit outside of their houses and we could even earn a quid for clearing those who were too old to clear it as a community gesture. Now, even with this salt shortage, its noticeable those paths are left un-cleared by residents, presumably in fear of a lawsuit.
All taxation is based on the richer paying for the poorer, the poorer that can't or won't pay, the council tax's very same principal. Northamptonshire has high employment and so high amounts of council tax being paid whereas London and the big cities you have high default rates. Because we want to pay our way in Northamptonshire we are seen as a cynical target by the council to get all manner of tax and fines out of us. It was recently revealed that this county has the most penalised motorists in the country for driving offences over the last five years. It's an absolute paparazzi of camera flashes and speed cameras out there on the roads and with 25 traffic wardens patrolling the slower streets the cars get a tickertape welcome of yellow parking tickets to the town centre for when the same vehicles try to park, over 50,000 handed out in 2009 in a town of only 200,000. You just can't hide from the fine in our big cities and this is clearly lapidary revenue policy. And with my county of Northamptonshire having the most sophisticated CCTV system in Europe (that paid for by council tax too) my word does the council rake it in. There are even wardens out at 7:30am on a Sunday morning looking for tickets where groggy eyed resident shave to wake up just to move their cars in to the permit zones! As many as 16% of Northamptonshire's drivers have penalty points on their licences for speeding whereas it's just 2% in Durham - 25% of us have had a parking ticket. Recently our council made the headlines for a pernicious move to penalise drivers who leave older parking stubs on their windscreens, even if the new one is next to it. Our diligent councillors have discovered a loop hole that the law says only 'one' ticket can be displayed. They also ticket if you leave your ticket the wrong way up .It fell off! Where Northampton have behaved is not clamping vehicles where possible for the simple reason that if the vehicle is clamped for blocking access it still will be blocking access if clamped and that would quickly block up the town, which makes you wonder why they need to ticket 45,000 cars!
Because you can lose your license here so easily because of the cameras people pay up or do the courses to scrub those points off their licences, those road safety classes also a real earner for the council and funded by council tax. But when it comes to the police putting resources in to catching more serious criminals it's not so impressive clear up rates, Northants Police having one of the lowest arrest and detection rates in the country, the police also on the council tax bill. It's so cynical here to get money out of drivers that the town centre shopping has collapsed as people go to Milton Keynes to avoid all the tickets and speed traps.
On the Council tax collection here it is no worse than any other Midlands town as are the services provided. Me and my brother split £790 between us.But 2010 is all about cost saving and job cuts in public services and it's already started. To save money they decided not to have Christmas recycling collection meaning we had four weeks of seasonal rubbish stacked up in our drives and trays. But the cheeky sods then sent out letters saying any overfilling of wheelie bins or trays could result in a £100 fine! Surprise surprise 4 weeks of wrapping paper and the rubbish doesn't fit in the wheelie bins! It's an open secret here the council are losing big money over the recycling system and there's no way out of that cash drain, an increase in council tax or some sort of bin tax levied at those who will pay the only option now. If councils were really honest they only recycle because of the European landfill law. There is no benefit to the environment either way with three times as many gas guzzling, oil crunching refuse trucks on the streets now.
A - up to £40,000 (£845)
B - £40,001 to £52,000 (£986)
C - £52,001 to £68,000 (£1,127)
D - £68,001 to £88,000 (£1,268)
E - £88,001 to £120,000 (£1,550)
F - £120,001 to £160,000 (£1,832)
G - £160,001 to £320,000 (£2,113)
H - £320,001 and above (£2, 5360)
What you get for your grand!
The coun cil tax funds local government, and apart from providing services such as police, fire, recycling, refuse collection and removal, they do schools, leisure centres, park and ride schemes, parks and open spaces, street cleaning, subsidising of public transport, tourism, museums, social housing grants, housing and council tax benefits, environmental health and food safety in pubs, restaurants and shops, planning services, support for voluntary groups, meals on wheels, facilities for young people, adapting homes for disabled people, play centres for children, cctv installation, sports facilities, issuing taxi licences, flood defences, and many others.
The biggies are...
90% of Derry's fire calls outs are arson due to insurance scams and delinquency born out of the Troubles whereas in Worcestershire the same percentage are false alarms when dealing with those automated alarms, the fire service in nice affluent counties over-staffed and more about the assurance of security and reaffirmation why council tax is so high than actually being cost effective, cuts definitely able to be made their to the flabby services from the tax. The fire strikes in the last decade where all about challenging the amount of downtime fireman enjoy, these guys getting more salary than a solider on the front line in Afghanistan. My home county of Northamptonshire fire service had recently decided not to respond to automatic fire alarms unless they are backed up by witness phone calls. It's long been believed that in some counties friends of fire service union members make calls to keep firemen busy so to stop cuts.
8 out of 10 people don't get the school they want through selection which is not a bad return for me. We know the badge wearing middle-class get the school they want by playing the system and we know the working-class parents who moan most about their kids missing out are often the reason the schools they end up in are sh*t. Just as parenting begins at home so do the roots for success in education, and good comprehensives only become good because the area becomes middle-class.
We are over-taxed on petrol for a reason- the middle-class won't get on public buses! Trains are fine as you have space and most people on them are going to important jobs or places whereas buses you have to sit next to the 'proles'. When London introduced the congestion zone people did indeed get out of their cars and jumped on the tubes and buses, but scheming Ken Livingstone quickly putting up the fares to cash in on that fact. When the congestion charge lost 20% of that projected revenue through drivers actually not coming into London Ken not only doubled the Oyster card cost over three years but then extended the congestion zones and put the charge up to £8! It was yet another tax dressed up as environmental nonsense. Any move by councils to introduce congestion charging by the mile you drive will be the same thing. Even though councils have been offered big subsidies to introduce these schemes public uproar has been so large none dare do it, perhaps in fear people will actually demand a decent bus and metro service, not what the revenue from the schemes was going to be spent on we suspect.
Although WE are the biggest town in Europe we are surprisingly lucky with crime, the courts bunged up with Poles committing driving offences and the usual delinquent underclass stuff. We get around 10 murders a year and most of those are immigrant on immigrant stuff due to domestics. We have a lot of those useless community wardens but in a town like ours they kind of work as they do look like coppers and town centre crime has fallen. Muggings are bad here though (I got done twice last year) and I read the other day that because electrical good are so cheap to buy now and cars harder to break into, those two crimes have fallen 10% in recession whilst muggings have risen 10% because we carry our most valuable items now, cell phones and Ipods much easier to make money fencing than cheap generic DVD players and TVs. The 19 community wardens managed just three arrests between them in 2009. In the same year we lost 9 PCs and two cars that weren't replaced.
The solutions and cuts needed...
Parks and gardens and street cleaning can be easily privatised and the amount of time I see one of those guys leaning on their spade is once too often. Get prisoner son bail turning the mud over and mowing the lawns. They get absurd pensions and it's that cost that is 25% of the cost of your council tax bill now. I don't see why voluntary organisations get so much funding and if they are about people doing something for nothing out of the good of their hearts, always something worth encouraging, then do it for nothing. I just think it would do the community good if council tax was cut on the condition the people got out there and got involved more with their community. It's very rewarding when you do and nothing better in life than making someone else smile. Kids leaving school at 14 is a good idea for kids that don't and won learn at that age and disrupt school for others. Get them into apprenticeships doing the work over paid council workers do. If they don't like the work then maybe they will go back to school and behave. Compulsory work ethic at a young age may even turn those young lads' lives around. The country is in deep trouble and we need to get tough again.
The council tax is a disgrace, a bill targeted at those who can pay, what ever age they are, and not collected from those who use and put pressure the most on the services and so waste the most money. I think you can draw a picture of those people in the community on a sink estate near you. They don't recycle; they get in trouble with the police and just do little to contribute from the chaos they conform to. Hackney, for example, failed to collect almost 15% of the tax owed by the mere 55% of tennants and householders who have to pay it there. My mum lives alone and she has to pay band C, over a grand a year, from her £120 weekly pension. She doesn't claim pension or council tax credit because she has over twenty grand in the bank, what's paying the council tax, why the system was introduced if you ask me, picking off our savings as the last great untouched taxable source. After the next election the council tax bands are to be 'reassed' and re-banded and you all know what that means.
Some may say that council tax is a strange subject to review on Dooyoo, but it can be a bit of a minefield if you have just come out of education, moved to England from a foreign country, or moved out of home for the first time. I know I had issues getting my head around it, so I thought I'd give you the lowdown...
Council Tax was brought in in the 1993 to replace the hugely unpopular poll tax, the amount of council tax you pay depends on the size of teh property you live in and location of your house.
Your council will decide on the council tax levels once it has determined how much money it needs to maintain local council services, such as: refuse disposal, social services, housing and education.
Residential properties are then divided into bands, with band A being the lowest and band H being the highest. The amount you pay for each band will vary depending on the council, but the difference between bands is the same throughout the country.
If you live alone you will get a 25% discount and anybody that is in full-time education is exempt. If you are on benefits or you are disabled then you will also receive discounts.
The main reason I am writing this is to encourage you to contest your council tax band if you think it is wrong, because councils do make mistakes and millions are probably overpaying. You can contest your band by contacting your local valuations office and talking to the council tax team. Go to: http://www.voa.gov.uk/council_tax/can_i_appeal.htm to find out more. It's worth checking out...
I am writing this review today as i am feeling a little more pleased with the whole process of council tax!!
What is it?
Council Tax is the system of local taxation used in the United Kingdom to part fund the services provided by local government in each country. The tax began in 1993 as a result of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, as you can imagine it was not a popular option however it is not really an option! It is a tax for the occupier of a residential dwelling.
It is possible to get a discount on your council tax if you are the only adult living in the property, if you are a student and if the property is vacant for a long period (and a whole heap of other reasons).
What do the government use it for?
It is spent on services that are provided locally such as police, fire, recycling, refuse collection and removal, schools, leisure centers, park and ride schemes, parks and open spaces, street cleaning, subsidising of public transport, tourism, museums, social housing grants, housing and council tax benefits, environmental health and food safety in pubs, restaurants and shops, planning services, support for voluntary groups, meals on wheels, facilities for young people, adapting homes for disabled people, play centers for children, cctv installation, sports facilities, issuing taxi licenses, flood defenses, and many others. It is determined by each local authority what proportion of the money goes towards what!
Well the reason I am writing the review is as a result of the current media interest in the council tax and the claims that 'millions have over paid'! I thought it was worth looking into this so I checked what my neighbors were paying - all of the properties locally are very different so it is not really possible to get a direct comparison however as I got my property for a really good price I thought it must go in my favour - I downloaded a letter to the local Valuation Office requesting that they review the banding that I am in - this was two months ago and I kind of forgot about it and this morning on my door mat was a lovely letter - a notice of alteration of an entry into the valuation list - hey presto I am now paying over two hundred pounds a year less! Well worth the cost of a stamp just to check and an extra bonus they are going to reimburse the amount that I have overpaid!! Everyone should try it!!
I am writing this now, as I am fuming from a letter that has just appeared on my mat. I moved house in Decemeber last year and registered with my new area and rang up my old council to let them know.
I forgot all about it until I received a demand for payment for the current financial year. I rang again and informed them and they demanded to know who we had sold to and the date.
I spent a morning going through all the solicitors letters and couldn't find any name on any of the documentation. I rang the estate agents but the man we had dealt with had left and they had a new computer system and couldn't trace who we had sold to. I them remembered it was a relative of the receptionist and later that morning they spoke to her and she rang back with the name.
I then rang the council back (waiting endlessly listening to music) and they told me I must put it in writing!!! I did this, but in the meantime I received a court summons for missing April's payment. I rang again and was told to ignore it as they had received my letter and it had now been passed to the revenue recovery department. I asked to whom I was speaking as I was getting anxious now and wanted some record of the receipt of my letter. She told me her first name and when I asked her surname she said that she couldn't give it to me for security reasons. If I was speaking to a bank or utilities company I would be given this information no problem, but for a service that is funded by the public for the public - no this is too much to ask.
I asked if she would write to confirm our conversation and she said the revenue department would do so.
I thought no more of it, but today I get a letter saying that after the court hearing (which I was not present for) they demand that the money in full ( some £900+) must be paid. If it is not paid within 2 weeks they will take the money from my wage, income support (which I don't receive and never have) or they will send someone to my address to take goods worth this amount. My wage won't cover the amount so I assume I can expect someone knocking on my door.
I am so angry and anxious and feel helpless that no one will listen to me or have the courtesy to respond to my queries. Apart from a Christian name I cannot even confirm that I spoke to anyone and informed them.
In the current climate of MP's expenses it is laughable that I am being taken to court and chased for council tax in a house which I sold last December and no longer live in.
My advice to anyone in this situation is to send all documentation by special delivery so that you can get someone to actually sign to say they have received it. Do not rely on someone actioning your new details because they may do nothing. I know may end up on a credit blacklist of something or even worse may have someone taking goods from my house.
On Monday I will now face another long telephone conversation and honestly do know how to guarantee that this will be resolved. I welcome anyone with advice to give or anyone who has been in a similar situation.
I am sorry if this is just a rant, but perhaps anyone else moving house will attend to it in a more efficient way than I obviously have.
So for anyone moving house do not phone - write and get proof of receipt.
I also am amazed that they can chase me at my new address (Hmmm how do they know I live here?), but not acknowledge that I no longer live at the old one - are councils really THAT inefficient?
Ok, well I'm sure there is nobody who actually likes Council tax...! Afterall nobody wants to be paying out money do they!!! But, lets look at the Pro's and Con's eh!!! :-)
Well firstly Council Tax is what we pay to our Local Councils for services such as looking after roads, the police and fire services, and a collection of other things (paying the councillers wages!!). The amount you pay depends on where you live in the town you live in, and the type of house you live in.
Council tax works in "bands", from A to D (I think!), A is the lowest band, D is the highest. The lower your band, the less you pay, the higher the band, the more you pay, simple :-D
Now....the banding process seems VERY silly to me...afterall, if you live in a 5 bedroomed detatched house with a garden and garage, does that mean your using more police and fire workers than someone in a two bed terrace in a worse area......not at all...! In fact, in a "worse area", your going to be more likely to need police and fire more often!!!! but, the council assume you can afford the council tax more for living somewhere nicer in a nicer house...!
Now, I myself live in a band B property, this makes no sense to me if I'm honest...I live in A 2 bedroom flat, a modern new build...but this isn't meant to have anything to do with it...I don't live in a "good" area, infact the area is pretty bad. My flat is next to a very busy railway line, we can't have the windows open due to the noise, and our block of flats has no lift so we have to walk up three flights of stairs whenever we go out, including when doing a months shopping...!!!! very tiring!!!!! Yet we're paying £107 a month for our council tax, our bins aren't council bins, the roads in the complex aren't council, the road outside our complex is TERRIBLE, so many potholes yu have to be VERY careful of your car!!! The only thing we're paying for really is fire and police...and this really is silly!!! £107 a month from 150 apartments in our complex....thats over £150,000 a year in council tax from one set of flats...no wonder councils want to keep building so many new apoartment blocks eh.... £150k from each one.....they have around 5 in this area alone......I don't see the effects of the money the council make from my council tax. I have never had any help from them when phoning then, we don't get a penny in financial help from them. The streets are messy and dirty, there are derelict buildings which need help from the council!!!
I think council tax should be lowered, in the credit crunch there are too many taxes and VATs and money going out...we pay council tax, income tax, road tax, plus tax on pretty much everything we buy!!!!!!! And it all goes to our greedy Government who get to buy porn on their expenses!!!!!!!!!!!!
Council tax is getting so out of hand. I pay more and more each year to Furness Council but they are now talking about cutting the rubbish collection down to once a fortnight.
I never see a police man around our neighbourhood and when I did have cause for reporting a crime they didn't even bother to get back to me.
Half the street lights are on the blink in my road, pavements are in need of an extreme make over before somebody has an accident, (now there's a thought, why not sue the council and get some of my money back!!!!!!)
No that is not a good idea, it would cause the tax to go up yet again and of course it is not a legal act is it!
What does the council do with all the money? I know the Mayor and all his cronies have quite a few business trips and travel first class, that caused a storm in the local paper letter page I can tell you, but it doesn't matter what us council tax payers say we still have to pay it.
Every year I receive my bill and it always states on the bottom that if I want to arrange monthly payments then I must contact them without delay. I do every year and get the same conversation.
They always say that I can pay my council tax bill by direct debit over ten months starting in April and the last payment being in January.
I always come back with I don't want to pay by direct debit I want to pay by standing order, it gets a reaction every year but eventually they agree to this method.
I then go on to discuss the payments over twelve months as it is my legal right, this always gets sticky because they just don't like it you see. Why should I pay in advance and have two months break for February and March? I don't really care if their computer doesn't like it, I eventually win because they know that I have them over a barrel.
I make sure that I keep to the payment plan rigidly because they take no prisoners when it comes to collecting this tax as a friend of mine found out last year.
She was struggling for money and asked for help but they would not bend by allowing her to reduce her payments ,she skipped a few payments and eventually the letter arrived stating pay up the full amount for the year or we will take you to court because you have lost your right to the payment plan.
At this stage she was really struggling and because they didn't help her a few months ago she ignored the letter and after twenty eight days she recieved a summons with about 150.00 added to the debt.
She had no choice but to pay up otherwise bailiffs would have been brought in, she lent the money to get out of the hole but learnt a big lesson. 'Never cross the council tax Collectors' they will just send the entire bill to a collection agency and that must be a horrible predicament to be in.
Is it worth working in this country any more? I could get this tax paid, get free prescriptions and a roof over my head if I went sick, it is such a sad state of affairs when I start to think like this but I suppose I will carry on working to keep my pride but am I doing the right thing?
Recently I have really been struggling for money, so I visited the money saving expert website, that is dedicated to helping us money saves. On the site you can explore many different ways to save money. It can help with debt, bad credit and general savings.
On the site I came across the council tax rebate section, here it was explained that if you were struggling you can either, get government funding to help pay the bill, but this was only in special circumstances.
I also discovered that you are entitled by law to pay your bill over 12 months, even though the councils don't like you to do this, this facility is available so you just need to ask. If they refuse you can demand that you pay over the 12 months and they have to accept it. I have found this really helpful as it lowers the monthly payments making them more manageable. I don't even miss the 2 month break I usually got either this way I can keep on top of it and know exactly what I have to pay out and what I have left.
If this wasn't interesting enough you can check your banding grade, along with all of your neighbours banding grade and if any of you neighbours have a lower banding them you, you can claim back the difference that has been paid by you from march 2005.
I have a small semi detached house, and I have being paying band E for years and I didn't think anything of it until this web site. My neighbour a few doors down was only paying C band and they had a bigger garden, I was fuming so I strongly felt the grounds of an appeal.
After chasing the right people and submitting my claim I was told it that I would be notified by letter in 5-6 weeks.
I was sure they would do some thing as it was a whole two bands less than mine, finally the letter came and I too was being reduced to a band C. I also got a leaflet stating if I owed money it needed to be paid straight away, well this wasn't an issue, I just wanted to know where my refund was.
After a call to the council I got a refund cheque of 1,700 pounds, I was gob smacked. But I didn't complain and went on holiday instead.
HOW TO CHECK YOU BANDING & YOUR NEIGHBOURS BANDING
This is very simple to do, just visit www.voa.gov.uk website. This is the current council tax valuation site for the figures from March 2005.
When the page loads click on the search button and put in your billing authority's details of even your post code. At this point you need to put in your full address and various other details.
Don't put in your house number, just the street and town. Then everyone in you street's details will appear.
Here you can view the whole streets banding valuations, if they are all the same then sorry you will not get anything. But if there is just one house with a lower banding you are entitled to claim that banding and therefore get a rebate for the council tax you have over paid since March 2005.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
If you feel you do have a basis to claim, and then telephone your local council tax department, and ask them to give you the valuation offices number. I could give you this but it would not help as it is a number for my area.
Then telephone the valuation office to explain the situation, they will either send you a dispute form to fill in, which is easy just put in all your details and tell them you are claiming on the grounds that your neighbour pays less.
If they think that you are within your rights they may just alter the banding straight away, I have known this done on occasions when it only involves a few quid, but if it is serious money then a form will need to be filled out.
After the form has been completed and sent back, you can expect to hear the outcome within three weeks
If you do not get a rebate award you can appeal the decision, and I would recommend you do this if your neighbours are paying less, the council are just trying to get out of paying you.
If you are awarded a reduction in the banding, you then need to telephone them to ask for your money. They will not give you it if you don't ask.
I didn't have problems as such getting the refund, they just wanted to deduct it from this years bill and next years, so I didn't have to pay for nearly two years. Although I was happy with this I thought that they had a check as they always want there money on time, so why should I pay this in advance. I telephone them back and demanded a cheque, and to my disbelief they said yes and it was on the door step 3 days later.
I would recommend that every one who reads this, logs onto the www.voc.gov.uk website and check the bandings, because all you need is one neighbour to be paying less then you to qualify for the refund.
I have found this money saving website very handy, as I also run a small business and you can even claim for that if other business pay less. The appeal is slightly more complicated and the council do try to tell you other business don't use full area's ect. But if you push and get a valuation officer out then you will more than likely get a result.
I can't believe I pulled this off, but I was damned if I was paying more that anyone else.
The only disadvantage is that you can only claim back as far as 2005, but hay any money back is better than no money at all.
GO ON LOG ON AND TRY IT
The Council tax is increasing all the time. I don't use all the services that are listed in the booklet. I should be paying less than £500 for what I use, not three times more.
Council tax is open to benefit fraud and it is open to local government exploitation by the central government.
I strongly believe in the abolition of council tax, instead money should come from central government.
Currently there are inconsistencies in the way the tax is raised. Some councils reduce services in order to charge less and some councils have no choice, external factors make them increase the tax to inappropriate levels. If money came from Westminster than it will be playing level field for all the boroughs in the country.
The tax is calculated on the value of properties, I think that is fair. People who can afford big houses should pay more. However the whole system needs to be reformed as the house prices have rocketed in last few years.
Although to be honest, I would prefer if the council tax was abolished and instead grants from central government were given. One problem that I can see with central control is manipulation by political parties, for instance labour will give more to its councils and Tories will do the same.
On the whole no system is perfect, current way the tax is applied is slightly unfair to some people because they end up more than they should because of house valuations. Maggies Poll Tax was not fair either. Abolition of local council tax is possibly the best option.