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IRRV CONFERENCE: PRESIDENT ATTACKS CAPPING 'BY THE BACK DOOR'

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Government plans to limit council tax benefit subsidy will reintroduce capping 'by the back door', the president of...
Government plans to limit council tax benefit subsidy will reintroduce capping 'by the back door', the president of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation warned.

Speaking at IRRV's annual conference in Blackpool yesterday, Roger Young said proposals to reduce subsidy paid to councils which exceed a yet to be determined guideline increase in council tax were unfair and inequitable.

Mr Young insisted: 'This change will add another complexity to a local government finance system which is already overburdened with rules and regulations.'

He posed ministers two questions: 'How will those authorities with above average numbers of benefit claimants be protected? And how will the government ensure that the benefit subsidy for a billing authority is not reduced simply because a sprecepting authority raises council tax above the guideline limit?'

Mr Young also expressed dismay at the government's decision to postpone revaluation until after the next general election. He warned: 'Any taxation system which does not have a regular review mechanism applied is in danger of falling into disrepute.'

Mr Young blamed the discrediting of the old rates system on the 'disgraceful' postponements of regular revaluations. He said there was evidence that property prices had shifted enough since April 1991 to warrant a revaluation and called for primary legislation to ensure regular revaluations in the future.

On business rates, Mr Young branded government plans to allow councils to levy a small supplementary rate on top of the national rate as 'excessively cautious'.

He predicted that councils would have to wait until 2001 until they could begin to levy the 'modest' 1% of additional business rates proposed.

On best value, Mr Young insisted that the institute fully supported the policy, but was less enthusiastsic about the government's approach to tackling best value failures.

'Local government does not need or deserve to be threatened by punitive action to make it respond to government action,' he said. 'We are not naughty school children misbehaving. We are professionals who are committed to, and who believe in, the concept of public service.'

He added: 'It is in my view more important for local government to be effective rather than efficient. The public wants effective local government which provides services when they are required to the standards which are required - not merely efficiency which can often be misconstrued as service at any cost, provided the cost is low.'

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