Rate reform inquiry gathers momentum

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

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A Tynwald committee set up to investigate replacing the domestic rating system with a fair local services tax meets in private next week to consider written submissions and decide on its next step.

The committee was set up after restaurateur David Buttery’s petition for redress of grievance – presented in 2009 – was picked up by Douglas West MHK Chris Thomas.

Since then Mr Buttery has updated and broadened his original petition. As well as an island-wide local services tax –on the person not the property – he has called for local authority reform with four local authorities.

Services to be paid for by area would include libraries and civic amenity sites, while housing would be transferred to a non-profit making body.

Water would be metered and refuse would be paid for by weight.

Douglas Council was one of a number of local authorities to respond to the select committee. Following a two and a half hour debate on Friday, Victoria ward councillor David Ashford’s motion was approved to seek a revaluation of properties under the current system.

Mr Ashford said: ‘The system is not fundamentally broken, it is fixable.

‘The last revaluation was in the 1970s. That in itself has caused a lot of difficulties.’

Douglas Council also believes there will ‘never be true fairness in the rates until local government reform is undertaken’. It would like to see just five local authorities.

Mr Ashford said: ‘I believe the wrong question is being asked sometimes. People ask why Douglas rates are so high, I think it’s the opposite – why are some areas’ rates so low.’

It has also called for the committee’s remit to be widened to include the toilet tax.

The select committee, set up in March, must report back to Tynwald by October. Its chairman, Mr Thomas, said: ‘I am delighted with the engagement to date as I took up David Buttery’s petition to give the chance for people to participate in this debate about how we finance local provision, as I said in the March Tynwald.

‘Our committee can contribute to the mammoth task of making local service financing fairer, an issue with which Tynwald and government has struggled for several decades.’

The committee will meet in private on Thursday next week. Information is being collected on the domestic rates or equivalent systems in the UK, Jersey and Guernsey.

Its report is expected to feed into government’s review of the rating system, due to run from early 2015 to September 2016, and involve public consultation, legislation and valuation assessments.

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