Communities and Local Government minister Eric Pickles has confirmed that there was a ‘big brother’ spying operation into people’s properties under the last Labour government. It is not clear when the surveillance stopped.
Media stories which claimed that people’s homes would in future be taxed on amenities such as their views and gardens, had previously been attacked as sensationalist.
However, the confirmation, contained in a ministerial statement by Pickles on changes to planning proposals, says that snoopers were indeed at work.
At the very end, his statement says: “… we have also discontinued the revaluation database and ceased the intrusive collection of data on the scenic views, gardens and patios of families’ homes.”
The Government announced in the autumn of 2010 that it would not carry out a council tax revaluation in the life of this parliament.
At that time, Pickles said: “A local authority breakdown of the property attribute information collected on people’s homes, including number of bedrooms, patios, value of significant gardens and scenic views, has also been published in the interests of transparency to make the public aware of the datasets that have been gathered under the last government.
“In addition, an independent data protection audit of the Valuation Office Agency’s council tax database is to be carried out to make sure people’s privacy is protected when the agency assesses properties and stores data. This is in keeping with the Coalition’s desire to defend civil liberties and to restore the rights of individuals.”
The Valuation Office Agency had signed a contract with Rightmove to gather the data. See the link at the end of this story for an earlier report on EAT.
In the rest of his latest statement, Pickles says that ‘consequential improvements’ will be abandoned.
These ‘consequential improvements’, dubbed a conservatory tax, would have required home owners improving their properties, for example by adding a conservatory, to upgrade the rest of their property in terms of energy performance.
Pickles said that research by the Energy Saving Trust showed that consequential improvements would have put off four in ten households from going ahead with improvements.
The statement refers to other reforms, promising more details soon. It is understood that the Government may also have back-tracked on allowing large new extensions to be built without the need for planning permission.
Incidentally, when you look at the link — it’s interesting to see the posts. The earlier ones stick to the story, but the others go off-piste somewhat.