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Written by rosalind renshaw

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.



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    I should add that Democratic Governments in general:
    i) are too incompetent to spy effectively on their populations
    ii) do not have enough money to make spying on ALL individuals work
    iii) generally find simpler ways round the problem so spying is unnecessary

    I agree that dictatorships do it, and often do it well, using fear as their main tool, but in democracies, fear is generally absent from our daily lives

    • 17 December 2012 12:22 PM
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    Wow, conspiracy theory abound!

    Considering how easy it is to both collect & collate what is called "Big Data" (think Google here for example), I would not be surprised at all if there was a way of recalculating tax based on your amenities, which just required scraping data from Rightmove.

    However, why bother doing the job again, surely the EPC is enough - surely! And the owners are paying for that themselves...

    But, the main issue in the end is the Cost Of Implementation.

    VAT for example is a very cheap tax to collect, because businesses do it for the government - who randomly sample 1 in 100 to check for accuracy. This chance of being caught is enough to keep most businesses honest.

    Income Tax on the other hand is monstrously expensive to administer.

    Collecting tax based on a huge number of amenity questions on your home would require a visit to every property in England & Wales which would be monstrously expensive.

    Assuming an average charge of £150 + VAT per visit (for a professional check) it would cost £4.63 billion.

    Even at EPC costs it would be £1.5billion.

    To put that in context - £4.6b is what it costs to run the NHS for 17 days - a HUGE amount of money.

    • 17 December 2012 12:17 PM
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    It only proves that goverments are spying on you. The face they have announced this is 1 it was not working or 2they have found a cheaper method. If you leave your laptop on with built in web cam, your xbox or whatever is on and your mobile phone all can be accessed buy the "authorities" Plus they are bringing in smartmeters to check on you and eventually control how much power you are entitled to use. This is all part of Agenda 21, which wants to control and abolish private property and how much "sustainable" living space you can have. Big brother is not coming he is here.

    • 17 December 2012 10:11 AM
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    "The Valuation Office Agency had signed a contract with Rightmove to gather the data".

    You have been warned!
    Much food for thought?

    • 17 December 2012 09:33 AM
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