30 October 2011

Jumping the gun

Mr Mustard's attention was brought by a tweet to an item on the BBC News website here where the bloggers' friend, The Right Honourable Eric Pickles MP is reported as follows :-

Owners of second homes in England could lose council tax discounts, under new plans to be announced by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles on Monday.

Councils would have the power to reduce or remove council tax relief on second homes and empty homes. Second homes currently receive up to 50% discount.

The money would be used to keep overall council tax bills down, he is to say.

an untypical second home : possibly not in Barnet
Now Mr Mustard is fortunate to have quite a memory and he thought he had seen that this mean spirited discount removal had already taken place in Barnet. After a little digging he found this report and in the window below, go to page 17 ( 117 ) and there is a projected £1,000,000 saving from removing the second home discount in 2011/12 ( don't worry that there is nothing in the next 2 columns for savings, there would be £1m more income in both years than in 2010/11 - the way these budgets work you only see the saving in the year it occurs and then the lower figure becomes the base budget )

Oct 10 Cabinet Report Financial Business Planning 2011 14
Just go back and look at the bottom of page 1 for a moment. What's that "A Beacon Council in 2002/3 for Improving Urban Green Spaces / Libraries as a Community Resource" ( what happened? the bulb in the beacon now low energy ? ) and then in 2002-04 for "Community Cohesion". Mr Mustard thinks that it might be time that these past glories were erased from the template. Why not put 2011's fantastic achievements on? ( perhaps because there aren't any?

Fast forward one year to the next 3 year budget plan, Item 5 at the meeting coming up on Thursday 3 November and in the box below

CAB_2011.11.03 Business Planning 2012 to 2015

If you navigate to page 19 you will find an adjustment of £1,000,000 to the Council Tax base in 2013/14 as between the Cabinet meeting of 13 December 2010 and that of 14 February 2011 someone at Barnet Council realised that the previous plan would have broken the law. If Mr Pickle's plans don't go ahead for any reason then the £1m saving will have to come from somewhere else. 

It evidently isn't easy being the S151 officer although £1,000 a day possibly cushions the blow a little.

Now Mr Mustard is going to have to write to Mr Pickles as the reasoning to keep overall council tax bills down automatically leads to unfairness.

This is what next Thursday's report says :-

6.3 Demographic change poses a particular challenge. Barnet is facing significant budget reductions at the same time as the population is increasing, particularly in the young and very old. Given that 55% of the council’s budget is spent on Adult Social Care and Children’s Services, this poses a particular challenge as these services are predominantly ‘demand led’.

So if 55% of the council budhget is spent on Adult Social Care and Children the other 45% is spent on highways, libraries, rubbish collection, recycling, planning, leisure, housing, overheads etc most of which a second home owner does not use.

If a council tax bill at 50% of normal is paid then the owner of an empty property is already more than paying their fair share of the cost of local services.

This is an analogous situation to the CPZ price rises where the costs of repairing roads fall unfairly on the 5-10% of residents who live within a CPZ.

It is possible that there will be sufficient outcry to case Mr Pickles to water down or abandon his proposals.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard


  1. That's a lovely looking house, Mr Mustard: tell me - is it possibly in the Marche region of Italy, and is it available for a holiday let, do you think? We could have a bloggers convention there, perhaps at a specially arranged discount.

  2. The argument would presumably be (although not I suspect from Mr Cameron) that 100% payments for second homes are merely an extra form of progressive taxation, on a rough and ready assessment of who actually owns them.


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