Campaign for Honest Council Tax Assessments – Lothian, Scotland - This Post is now closed

GlennCTax
GlennCTax Posts: 80 Forumite
First Post
The public deserve an open, transparent and honest Council Tax Assessment.  

After a 3 year investigation, we uncovered 7 Senior assessing staff members 
all complicit in using misleading evidence in relation to our Case.

When we first challenged our Council Tax Band, a Senior Technician came out to 
see us at our Cottage.  We believed he was showing us honest evidence at that time.
We thanked him for taking the time to show us his assessment.  We thought 
we were dealing with a professional assessing staff member. 
By the time we checked all of his evidence we discovered the Senior Technician had misleading every area of his assessment. To date, we have 3 Tape Recorded house meetings, purchased and acquired over 100 items of evidence to back up and reinforce our Case of numerous misleading evidence used by the assessing staff members. I have only given a very brief sample of the information our investigation has uncovered. We are asking if there are any other members of the public who feel they have not received open or transparent information while dealing with the assessors. We would be interested to hear from you and your experience. I shall give further updates in the coming days and weeks.

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Comments

  • lincroft1710
    lincroft1710 Posts: 17,640 Forumite
    Photogenic Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    edited 11 April 2023 at 6:38PM
    It would be better if rather than post some anonymous "cut and paste", which is awkward to read, you posted it in a readable form, identified whom you represent and gave examples of how the Assessor's evidence was inaccurate or dishonest e.g. "they claimed a 3 bed house in Livingston sold for £85,000 in May 1991, when in fact it was a 4 bed house which sold for £80,000 in March 1991"
    If you are querying your Council Tax band would you please state whether you are in England, Scotland or Wales
  • steampowered
    steampowered Posts: 6,176 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Post
    What is actually needed is proper reform of the Council Tax system.

    Not sticking plasters over a completely absurd system that creates arbitrary bands based on what a house was worth in 1991 - more 30 years ago now.

    Or a system that taxes expensive properties at a much lower rate than cheaper properties.
  • GlennCTax
    GlennCTax Posts: 80 Forumite
    First Post
    edited 11 May 2023 at 10:48PM
    Thank you for your reply lincroft.  As this was our first post, we previewed the post before we posted it live. It appeared to look fine in the preview.  We were not aware it would change in the finished post.  We will type direct for future posts, thanks.   We are simply 2 members of the public, both in our mid 60's, who expected an open, honest and transparent Hearing of Appeal.  

    As we have gathered so much evidence over the past 3 years and the post was already lengthy, we decided we would give a general picture of our 3 year investigation.

    The first assessor gave us wrong sizes for our cottage attic.  When we questioned his attic sizes, he stated he got his sizes from his plan.  When we asked to see his plan, he claimed it must have been thrown out. 

    He then claimed the plan never existed. Not true, we purchased the attic section plan from the Planning Dept which clearly showed the assessor was using a misleading size which favoured his Case.

    The assessor then claimed he got his sizes from the surveyor who came out to measure our attic - Not True
    When we asked if we could see evidence of his surveyors sizes, he stated he would send us a copy.  When we reminded him, we were still awaiting evidence of his surveyors sizes, he then claimed he was not sure what we were talking about. 
    We later obtained an email stating there was no record of a surveyor out measuring our attic.

    This assessor also used the wrong sizes for the ground floor of our cottage as it was in 1993.  Again we questioned his sizes and again he had an opportunity to admit a mistake was made.  After he rechecked his sizes he continued to mislead when he claimed he had corrected his sizes.  We later obtained a copy of the assessors old house card for our cottage, which again clearly showed the assessor was using a misleading size that favoured his Case.

    None of these statements are hearsay.  We taped our meetings as we tape all business meetings.  The assessors have given us numerous misleading statements, then they claim they did not make such statements, or that it was simply a misunderstanding.  If we had not taped the assessors meetings, it would be our word against theirs.  

    Our taped evidence shows this 40 year experienced assessor was training another member of staff during our house meetings.   This trainee was being trained on how to give misleading evidence to members of the public (my wife and myself). 

    We have told the assessors it is understandable that mistakes will be made, however, our evidence shows that after the assessors recheck their information, they continue to mislead.

    As the assessors hold all the assessing information, the pubic and the Committee members of the Appeal Hearing rely on the honesty and integrity of the assessors.

    We initially agreed with this assessor and thanked him for taking the time to show us his evidence.  This assessor actually told us he wanted to give us the best chance of our Case!  This is only a very small sample of the assessors behaviour. 

    We are not alone in condemning the behaviour of the assessors.  We will post further information over the coming days and weeks.  If anyone out there has any similar experience, we would like to hear from you. 
  • GlennCTax
    GlennCTax Posts: 80 Forumite
    First Post
    Hi Steampowered.  Totally agree.  This old system makes it difficult for both the public and the assessors.  It time we had a fresh look at this system.
  • GlennCTax
    GlennCTax Posts: 80 Forumite
    First Post
    edited 11 May 2023 at 10:43PM
    When we first met our assessing staff member, he told us how he selects his comparison properties.  He explained how he looked in the same street for Tone Date comparison properties that sold around 1991.  If there are no properties in the street, he starts to move his search out street by street.  He stated that as there was no Tone Date properties in our local area, he had to move his search further out approx 4 miles.

    After a great deal of searching library archives, purchasing Register of Sasines sales details and requesting Tone Date properties under a FOI Request, we found in excess of 20 Tone Date properties in the immediate local area the assessor could have used.

    As our cottage is detached, he ignored local detached, semi-detached and end terraced cottages, yet went outside the local area to find a mid-terraced cottage that favoured his Case.   This mid-terraced cottage he used in his list of comparisons was more expensive than 3 very similar sized detached cottages in our local area.   

    There was no need for the assessor to make misleading claims that there was no local evidence.  There was no need to use this mid-terraced cottage, as he had numerous cottages to chose from in the local area.  This is still only a sample of this assessors behaviour, and we have still to report on the behaviour of another 6 top level assessors behaviour including the "Assessor" himself (this is still not counting the behaviour of the assessors we have read about in the 300 pages of previous Hearing of Appeal Minutes).

    We reminded the "Assessor" that the Barclay Report (Rates 2017), has already warned the assessors to change their behaviour. e.g. 

    4.62 - "...changes do need to be made to the accountability and behaviour of the Assessors"   

    Our evidence shows the assessors did not heed this warning.   

    We have already received valuable input/emails from other Appellants, we would like to hear from anyone with similar experiences.

    Will continue to give updates in the coming days/weeks.


  • dharm999
    dharm999 Posts: 559 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary
    What is also unfair is that you have only 3 months to appeal a band.  We moved in to our house in 2015, and only found out in 2021 that the banding could be appealed, after reading about appeals on MSE.  We appealed the banding decision but were told that we were out of time, as we should have appealed within 3 months of getting a council tax bill for the property.  How is that fair, if you don't know that the band can be appealed.  
  • GlennCTax
    GlennCTax Posts: 80 Forumite
    First Post
    Yes dharm, it is unfair.  I see in the Appeal Hearing Minutes this happens very often.   The Committee state that unless there is exceptional circumstances, the Appeal will be rejected if it is not made within 6 months (Scotland).  It is so frustrating. 
  • lincroft1710
    lincroft1710 Posts: 17,640 Forumite
    Photogenic Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    dharm999 said:
    What is also unfair is that you have only 3 months to appeal a band.  We moved in to our house in 2015, and only found out in 2021 that the banding could be appealed, after reading about appeals on MSE.  We appealed the banding decision but were told that we were out of time, as we should have appealed within 3 months of getting a council tax bill for the property.  How is that fair, if you don't know that the band can be appealed.  
    The time limit is actually 6 months. Either 6 months from the date you first became the CT payer or if a new band or alteration to an existing band, 6 months from you receiving the Notice of Alteration of the Valuation List. For very many years (certainly well before 2015) CT bills have contained information of how to appeal your CT band.
    If you are querying your Council Tax band would you please state whether you are in England, Scotland or Wales
  • dharm999
    dharm999 Posts: 559 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary
    dharm999 said:
    What is also unfair is that you have only 3 months to appeal a band.  We moved in to our house in 2015, and only found out in 2021 that the banding could be appealed, after reading about appeals on MSE.  We appealed the banding decision but were told that we were out of time, as we should have appealed within 3 months of getting a council tax bill for the property.  How is that fair, if you don't know that the band can be appealed.  
    The time limit is actually 6 months. Either 6 months from the date you first became the CT payer or if a new band or alteration to an existing band, 6 months from you receiving the Notice of Alteration of the Valuation List. For very many years (certainly well before 2015) CT bills have contained information of how to appeal your CT band.
    Apologies, a mistake with my figures.  The info about appealing was on the back of the bill, not something I normally look at, my fault, but I had no idea it could be appealed.  
  • GlennCTax
    GlennCTax Posts: 80 Forumite
    First Post
    edited 11 May 2023 at 10:51PM
    Our assessor added new comparison properties just 2 days before our Hearing of Appeal.  Our Hearing had to be cancelled as it was impossible to check his new properties in just 2 days.

    After checking his new comparisons we found he had a misleading comparison Banding, a sales price and an apartment count, all in his favour.  Bearing in mind, we only have access to limited assessing information.  It is not possible for us or any member of the public to check all the assessors evidence.

    After a more in-depth investigation we found this assessor had mislead in every area of his assessment and gave various misleading statements.  

    These assessors already have a huge advantage over members of the public, they have all the Tone Date sales, all the properties sizes, apartment count, vast experience in the Hearings, yet they use misleading evidence to gain a further advantage.

    We read on the assessors online information, that members of the public could be fined or even imprisoned if they give misleading information to reduce their Council Taxes.  Our evidence shows the assessors have used misleading information to increase our Taxes.  

    Our evidence shows that using misleading evidence in Hearings of Appeal has been going on for decades!

    If anyone has had a similar experience, we would like to hear from you.  We will continue to give further updates.
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