Westminster Council report calls for “at least three additional Council Tax Bands”

An independent report commissioned by Westminster City Council has called for the introduction of “at least three additional Council Tax Bands, covering properties valued, in today’s prices, at £2million-£5 million, £5 million- £15 million and £15 million plus”.

The report, from Ramidus Consulting Limited on the ‘Prime Residential Market in Westminster’, was published earlier this year (http://transact.westminster.gov.uk/docstores/publications_store/news/prime_residential_research_report_140722.pdf)

Labour’s plans for a Mansion Tax follow this common-sense approach;

1. The threshold of the Mansion Tax will rise in line with the average rise in prices of high-value properties over £2 million. As a result, more modest properties will not be brought into the scope of the tax.
2. The tax will be administratively simple. A banded system means valuations will not be needed for most properties as it will be clear which band — for example £2 million-£3 million — the property falls into. As with the Government’s new tax on properties bought through companies, owners will be able to submit a self-valuation to HMRC.
3. The tax will be progressive. We will ensure those owning properties worth £2 million-£3 million will only pay an extra £250 a month through this new tax — the same as the average top band of council tax.
4. We will protect those Londoners who are asset-rich but cash-poor. Long-standing residents who now find themselves living in high-value homes but do not have an income high enough to pay the higher or top rate of income tax will be guaranteed the right to defer the charge until their property changes hands.

Information from Westminster City Council has revealed that there are only 61 H-Band Council Tax payers currently receiving Council Tax Benefit, indicating that the number of “asset-rich but cash-poor” residents may not be as great as some believe.

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Make sure you don’t lose your right to vote!

ballot paper

The way you register to vote has changed. The new system is called Individual Electoral Registration. Previously, the ‘head of the household’ was responsible for registering everyone who lived at an address, but now every individual is responsible for their own voter registration. This is the biggest change to the voter registration system in 100 years.

The new system means that for the first time you are now able to register online at gov.uk/register-to-vote. You will need to provide a few more details, including your National Insurance number and date of birth to help make the electoral register more secure. Most people who are already registered have been transferred automatically to the new register. However around 26,000 people will need to re-register in Westminster.

There are also people in the area who are not registered to vote at all and so need to register to have their say in elections. If you weren’t registered previously, you can register under the new system at gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Find out more at westminster.gov.uk/register-to-vote

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Living Wage Business Reception

Paying the Living Wage is good for business, good for the individual and good for society. Westminster MPs, Karen Buck MP and Mark Field MP invite you to join them at an event next Monday evening to learn more about adopting the Living Wage so you can make an informed decision about engagement and to celebrate the leadership of London Living Wage Employers.

The event is being held at Methodist Central Hall, Storey’s Gate, London, SW1H 9NH on Monday 3 November 2014 from 5.30pm, with speeches and dicussions from 6.00-7.30pm.

To book your place click here http://www.eventbrite.com/e/living-wage-business-reception-tickets-13385164387

Posted in Karen Buck MP, London Living Wage, Westminster North | Leave a comment

Saltram Crescent consultation meeting to discuss reducing traffic speeds

Saltram image

Alongside Karen Buck MP, we have been supporting the campaign to reduce traffic speeds in and around the ‘Saltram triangle’. Harrow Road Ward Councillors met with Cllr Argar, Martin Low and other traffic officers from Westminster Council on 18th September to take forward options for improvement – the idea is for a series of ‘give way’ bays along Saltram Crescent. Councillors have said that the residents must be consulted on this and a meeting is being held at

St Luke’s Church, Fernhead Road, W9 3EH on Wednesday 26th November 2014 from 6:30pm.

There is also a petition calling for a 20mph speed limit in the area. Please find the link here http://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/fernhead20mph/

Posted in 20mph speed limit, Harrow Road, Karen Buck MP, Road Safety, Westminster North | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Just four anti-social dog owners prosecuted in Westminster over the past year for failing to clear up dog mess

Labour Councillors are calling for tougher action to be taken against anti-social dog owners who do not clear up their dog’s mess, after information revealed by the Council shows that only four dog owners have been prosecuted over the past year in Westminster for failing to clear up dog mess – and only two of them have paid their fine.

Council officers say;

“In the last 12 months 4 penalty notices have been issued for failing to clear dog fouling from the public highway, 50 % of which have currently been paid and 50% are still pending. 10 verbal warnings have also been given for failure to dispose of bagged dog waste correctly, which was a key issue in some wards, and saw many of our litter bins stickered to show that bagged waste could be disposed in them. Every ward has their own dedicated Local warden who in addition to the Animal warden monitors identified target streets, and is responsible for issuing penalty notices to offenders for failing to clear up after their dogs. Despite this, dog fouling enforcement is still very difficult to carry out as the offence needs to be witnessed and the owners would need to give their details to the issuing officer, which in some cases could mean the offender just walking off or verbally abusing the officer. Those repeat offenders that are identified could face prosecution but this would not mean them losing their dog or limit them from owning dogs in the future. Those penalties are more common in cases where dangerous dog and animal cruelty offences have been committed. In addition to the 600 signs we have installed citywide we have continually been raising awareness through planned free micro chipping events (currently 26 events across 16 ward areas) advertised notices through Westminster’s resident newsletters and social media, which have also been put into relevant housing newsletters.”

Labour Councillors say that this type of anti-social behaviour by a minority of irresponsible dog owners is plaguing the lives of many residents who are faced on a daily basis with having to dodge piles of dog mess left on the streets.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;

“This everyday problem needs more attention and more resources to tackle those irresponsible dog owners who make life difficult and unpleasant for everyone else. The Council and the police need to take tough action against those who do not abide by the law. This may not be the most high-profile issue but it is one of the most common problems raised by residents right across Westminster.”

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Westminster homeowners ‘will be protected’ in mansion tax scheme

The ‘Wood & Vale’ reports;

“Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls has moved to reassure homeowners in Westminster that they will not be forced to sell up due to his proposed mansion tax – insisting the policy will be “fair and proportionate”.

Writing exclusively for the Ham&High series, Mr Balls said he had noted concerns raised by his colleagues, including Westminster North MP Karen Buck, and will ensure there are “protections for pensioners and others on modest incomes” living in homes worth more than £2million who would be unable to pay the proposed tax, which would be used to help shore up the NHS.

Mr Balls’ comments are seen by some as an exercise in damage limitation for Labour candidates set to fight next year’s General Election in constituencies hardest-hit by his mansion tax, including Westminster North where two-bedroom flats in some of its most desirable streets already sell for £2million or more.

Mr Balls maintained that “less than three per cent of homes” in London would fall into the mansion tax bracket, helping raise £1.2billion each year towards ensuring the nation has the GPs and nurses it needs – but the tax would affect almost one in five private homeowners in Westminster North.

Elaborating on the “difficult but fair” tax, the shadow chancellor reveals that anyone living in a £2m-plus home and earning less than £42,000-a-year will not have to pay the tax until they sell their home, at which point the government will take an accumulated amount.

And, contrary to early fears that the tax could be as high as £12,000 per year, those living in homes worth between £2million and £3million at today’s prices would be taxed £3,000 per year, roughly the same as the top band of council tax.

Lindsey Hall, who will fight Ms Buck for the Westminster North seat on a Conservative ticket next year, branded it a “tax on aspiration and on ordinary family homes” in which families and pensioners will be “pulled down because of the politics of envy”.

But Ms Buck told the Wood&Vale she backed the mansion tax now that safeguards have been built in.
“I think it is basically right that we seek to be sure that people in high-value properties are making a greater contribution,” she said.

“We are avoiding people having to sell their homes by building into the system the ability to defer the charge. The critical thing is to ensure people who have high-value properties who don’t have high incomes are not forced to make a difficult decision.”

She added: “If we want to offer a decent quality National Health Service, we have to ensure there is a reasonable fund in order to pay for that.”

Asked if it was unfair that cash-poor residents who happen to live in homes which have rocketed in value over the years should be forced to pay another tax, even if only when the home is sold, Ms Buck said: “If it isn’t fair then somebody would have to abolish the inheritance tax as well, and the principle of existing council tenants deferring their major works bills.”

She said there existed “a fundamental unfairness in the way we treat property,” with homes worth £50million currently subject to the same taxes as those worth £1million, and backed the proposed “progressive banding system” that tracks house values as they rise, unlike council tax.”

http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/ed_balls_westminster_homeowners_will_be_protected_in_mansion_tax_scheme_1_3816633

Posted in Council Tax, Karen Buck MP, Mansion Tax, NHS, Westminster North | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Westminster Council faces High Court challenge over crisis payment conditions

According to ‘Inside Housing';

“The High Court has given the go-ahead to a legal challenge that could prevent councils forcing people to join a work programme or move home as conditions of receiving housing crisis payment awards.

Anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust has been given permission to pursue a judicial review against Westminster Council for making receipt of discretionary housing payments (DHP) conditional on seeking work and searching for more affordable properties.

DHPs are time-limited payments to help people who are struggling to meet their housing costs.

In a legal document setting out the grounds of the challenge, seen by Inside Housing this week, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust says Westminster Council’s policy on deciding DHP claims for tenants affected by the £26,000-a-year total household benefit cap is unlawful.

In the legal document Westminster Council set out its policy: ‘Conditionality will be linked to the claimant being able to show engagement with work programmes and/or action to find alternative accommodation.’

The challenge was given permission to be heard in court in July, with a hearing likely in February.

The document stated that some DHP claimants had been expected to attend all interviews arranged by Jobcentre Plus.

Zacchaeus 2000 Trust alleges Westminster Council does not have any lawful power under the housing benefit regulations to impose these conditions on awards of DHP, or to require a DHP recipient to agree to conditions as a pre-condition of DHP.

It is not known how many other councils are imposing these conditions

Giles Peaker, partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors, said: ‘Councils are creatures of statute, so if there isn’t something which says “you can do this at your complete discretion”, then they can’t really do it. I think it’s a viable case.’

In January a disabled couple were given permission to bring a judicial review against Sandwell Council for taking disability living allowance into account when deciding how much DHP to give out.

Inside Housing reported in August last year that Edinburgh Council was denying DHP to bedroom tax tenants if they were deemed to spend too much on alcohol or cigarettes.”

Posted in Advice services, Discretionary Housing Payments, Housing, Housing Benefit, Jobs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment