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IRRV CONF: DoE ABLE TO APPEAL ON POLL TAX

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The DoE has been given leave to appeal against the recent High Court decision that environment secretary John Gumme...
The DoE has been given leave to appeal against the recent High Court decision that environment secretary John Gummer was wrong not to extend the community charge grant scheme.

The case was brought by Oxford City Council. It centred on the compensation scheme introduced in the spring 1991 Budget that allowed the government to cut poll taxes by £140.

David Magor, head of revenues and benefits at Oxford and an IRRV council member, told LGC at the conference that the appeal decision 'was not unexpected but nonetheless disappointing'.

'The comments of the judge were very powerful and I had hoped the DoE would accept that local government had been treated unfairly.'

Under the scheme, the government compensated councils for 90% of the lost income out of central funds raised by a 2.5% VAT increase.

But the community charge reduction grant was paid based on the amount of poll tax actually collected. Oxford was dogged by problems of collecting tax from its 40,000 students, which meant that by the end of the scheme it had been unable to collect all the charges, thereby forfeiting 'a very substantial' sum in grant.

The council wrote to Mr Gummer in June 1995 asking for an extension, the only council to do so. He refused. Oxford then won a judicial review of his decision in the High Court.

Mr Magor believed the DoE still failed to recognise the problems of collecting residual poll tax. Councils were mainly only able to recover unpaid poll tax from people on income support, he said. 'There is no justice in that.'

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