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Only on this website, not on any estate agent or council or community websites, is it revealed that purchasers/leaseholders of residential Sovereign Harbour property must pay a unique annual and increasingly expensive flood defence and harbour charge averaging £290 a year in 2019 (£265 a year in 2018) in addition to council taxes, property insurance, management fees and ground rents. In no other flood area or harbour or marina area or private estate anywhere else in Britain, the UK, Europe or the world does this apply. A much wider flood zone area than just Sovereign Harbour is involved, affecting  more than 17,000 homes, yet the Sovereign Harbour Trust, owned by The Wellcome Trust makes only 3,104 Sovereign Harbour residents and their successors pay it, to the Environment Agency, not businesses including managing agents and property developers. As Members of Parliament and Eastbourne Borough and East Sussex County councillors have refused to help right this wrong applicable uniquely and solely to Sovereign Harbour residents, the matter has now been referred to overseas agencies . A second unique covenant  requires owners/leaseholders of 369 South Harbour properties in the water feature precinct to pay a further annual charge of £328 in 2018. It is the only such water feature in the world that applies such a charge to properties overlooking it.

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Eastbourne and UK-wide Council Tax Wrongs that need to be Righted

For 28 years, modest homes and flats unfairly have had to pay appreciably more in taxes than other local properties worth more and multi-million pound London mansions

By Keith A. Forbes and his wife Lois Ann Forbes. Both disabled, they live in Eastbourne and write, administer and webmaster this website. Keith is a member of the UK's The Society of Authors and an activist for the elderly and disabled.

Council Tax shocks for newcomers  

UK newspapersCouncil Taxes have been described by leading British newspapers as Britain's most hated taxes, for their nation-wide unfairness. As merely one prominent newspaper's international condemnation see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10431722/Britons-pay-the-highest-property-taxes-in-the-developed-world.html published in June 2016. Massive inequities since 1991 have been consistently deliberately ignored by the British Government's Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street, London, Members of Parliament of all political parties who have never attempted en masse to change the system, county councillors, Local Government Association, Citizens Advice Bureau, Rip-off Britain, etc. The UK's present system of low council taxes even at the highest Band H  for the most expensive central London properties but significantly high council taxes than those applied to those high-value central London properties for much lower-priced properties at Band E in Eastbourne and elsewhere in the country is manifestly unjust.

It is not disputed that there has to be a council (property) tax on every property within the jurisdiction of the local authority. But it has to be seen to be balanced, fair, equitable, logical and consistent. It should be a reliable indicator of the fair market value of a property including the house or flat or cottage or bungalow, land on which it sits, what outbuildings or garages there are. It should not matter for evaluation purposes whether the property is a house or flat or cottage or bungalow, exactly the same criteria should apply, instead of it being so discriminatory as it is now. What should matter are the actual or accurately assessed market price, a legislative methodology to ensure the entire valuation system is reviewed regularly at least every five years, the assessment is open enough to ensure that every property bought and or sold routinely shows both its market price and its council or property tax on property particulars and by doing so avoid any accusation of discrimination, with the valuation of every property open for public inspection to achieve complete transparency.  It should not be just a single isolated local authority tax but one mindful of and comparable with council taxes in other areas. It should have enough council tax banding width to easily ensure that unless a property is equal in total value to Buckingham Palace it should be council taxed at merely a fraction of the latter's council tax. And if/when market prices fall instead of going up, the property tax should also fall.

Unfortunately, no such fair, decent, consistent, regularly updated methodology applies to Council Taxes in Eastbourne. Instead, the Eastbourne Borough Council at www.eastbourne.gov.uk, and its East Sussex Council partner, with the approval of the British Government and all its 650 legislators, applies such a massively unfair council tax system that even small modest two bedroom flats with a market value of under £270,000 and no property-owned land at all pay appreciably more Council Tax than (a) other local properties with an often far higher market value and (b) 775-room Buckingham Palace in London, 90 miles away, worth about £980 million and other multi-million pound properties and their personal gardens in the most affluent areas of London. As the latest examples of (a) in 2018 

There is no single uniform council tax system throughout the UK. Every every council can set its own council taxes providing they abide by the parameters established as 1991 Property Valuation Bands. That is why there are such huge differences. Because the UK Council or Property Tax system completely ignores a property's land and outbuildings, places like Buckingham Palace and all other massive properties, which often have significant areas of land including lakes and outbuildings galore, especially those in exceptionally affluent areas, the latter pay far less tax than leasehold not freehold 2 bedroom flats or apartments with no land our garages or outbuildings owned by the property. Under the present system dating back to 1991 and never changed since then, with Council Tax Bands of only A to H, not A-Z, the less well-off are significantly over-taxed and the much more affluent are hugely under-taxed. On 22 February 2017 The Times newspaper of London reported that the Prime Minister, at 10 Downing Street London, announced that council taxes will still not be re-evaluated, much to the fury of many. Yet she has repeatedly pleaded for equity and fairness of government. She should be the first to pledge, to reform our Council Taxes by changing them to Property taxes based on current value of both all homes and their landmass. She should lead the charge to create many more bands than merely A-H but I-Z so that at long last these taxes can be paid on a property's value, not as they are now as heavy taxes for average-value properties and light taxes for hugely more valuable properties. Sadly, no British political party has urged that this be done to right these wrongs.

Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace, London, worth 980 billion and similar multi-million properties in central London. Their Council Tax Band H 2016-2017 cost is £1337.62 (compared to Eastbourne's Band H cost of £3432.08 below). Compare them to Sovereign Harbour, where for a modest (£262,500) 2 bedroom flat, less than the 2017 median price of a domestic Eastbourne home, the 2016-2017 Council Tax Band E cost is £2,097.38 - nearly double the Council Tax for Buckingham Palace, etc. 

Eastbourne semi-detached house

Why does this Eastbourne semi-detached house, so much smaller in size and value than Buckingham Palace shown above and other central London multi-million pound properties, have to pay so much more in Council Tax than they do?

The UK is the only place in the democratic world where this grotesque Human Rights Wrong exists. 

Money for council taxesCouncils throughout the UK have not changed or amended their Council Tax methodology via re-assessments and re-valuations on domestic (non-commercial) properties since 1991, unlike in the USA, Canada, Bermuda, Barbados, Australia, much of the EU, etc. There, they are required by law to review their property tax assessments at every five years, often every year, for example see Mesa County, Arizona, at https://assessor.mesacounty.us/Property-Assessment-and-Taxes.aspx  and in the process ensure that properties of a similar assessed or market value, irrespective of whether a flat or townhouse or single family home, are taxed uniformly, in various extended tax bands based solely on assessed or comparable market value. Since Council Tax took over from Poll Tax in April 1991, with none of Eastbourne's many homes fairly and uniformly assessed then on comparative fair market price values  there has never been a subsequent or thorough re-evaluation.

In total contrast to the above, every five years Councils in Eastbourne and throughout the rest of the UK are required by law to and routinely re-assess their business rates (taxes, in lieu of domestic Council Tax)For 2017 business rates see http://www.eastbourne.gov.uk/businesses/business-rates/how-much-to-pay/rateable-value/national-non-domestic-rates-revaluation-2017/. Also see http://www.eastbourne.gov.uk/businesses/business-rates/how-much-to-pay/rateable-value/ and Business Rates in England at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_rates_in_England.  Businesses pay their rates taxes via a complex formula, based not on property market values but perceived or assessed annual rental value. In some cases, it is known that this tax on businesses is merely a fraction of what domestic property owners or occupiers have to pay in Council Taxes. For example, a hotel or guest house or bed-and-breakfast business that uses a 2-3 bedroom detached cottage or similar building on the property as the residence of the property's manager will pay in rates the equivalent of Band A in Council Tax but if it was not such a business the domestic property Council Tax could easily be a C, D or E. 

Bungalows have an unjustifiably higher Council Tax banding compared to single family homes with more than one storey and worth much more.  They may take more airspace than the latter but their owners pay more in Council Taxes than properties with more than one floor and staircase and have a higher market value. 

In contrast, park homes pay less. For example, a spacious 2-bedrrom £224,950 bungalow park home at Eastbourne Heights, Oak Tree Lane, Eastbourne, was advertised for sale in January 2017 with Council Tax Band A. 

Councils could save huge amounts of money annually in salaries and benefits presently paid to their employees by combining Council Taxes and Business Rates into one new uniformly applied Property Tax system applicable to all domestic owners or occupiers and businesses based solely on present market value, and re-assessed every five years. 

In the USA and beyond, property taxes are based on two components: a home’s assessed value and the county’s tax rate. Taxes rise or fall depending on current or accurately assessed values. 

In the USA and elsewhere, but not in the UK, property tax exemptions or heavy discounts for the disabled seniors, those over 65, are common USA-wide, see those in Florida at http://floridarevenue.com/dor/property/brochures/pt110.pdf,also Washington State at http://dor.wa.gov/docs/pubs/prop_tax/seniorexempt.pdf and Georgia at http://www.georgialegalaid.org/resource/property-tax-relief-for-seniors-and-veterans as merely three examples of what all American states without exception and their local authorities have long been offering routinely to their senior citizens over 65 mostly when earning under US$50,000 annually, the disabled of any age and military veterans. Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, and European countries have followed the US example. There, they either no longer charge their disabled or over 65 year old owner-residents any council-tax equivalent property taxes if below a certain taxable value or apply a generous discount of up to 50%. In stark contrast, most elderly in the UK who are home owners or renters get no Council Tax relief at all unless they are either earning a means-tested minimum income to qualify or, if (a) disabled and (b) can qualify in one-band facilities requirements where they live.

In the USA, in 2016 the median property tax throughout the country was $2,232. (The only exceptions to this are Westchester and Rockland counties, both in New York). Hugely more than in London, England. The median is only $216 a year in Tunica County, Mississippi.

Here in the UK, in comparison, when a county is home to a lot of high-priced real estate, such as the City of Westminster in London where Buckingham Palace is, it can affect median calculations -- a median figure is one that falls right in the middle. Revenues raised from property taxes typically pay for things like schools, parks, libraries, transportation infrastructures, and police departments and fire departments. But here in Eastbourne and throughout the UK, council taxes on domestic properties have never been reduced, even when market prices of properties have declined significantly. Also, here in Eastbourne we now have to both pay extra for police services and instead of just one council tax payable to one authority we have to pay to several. Yes, the same also applies in much of London, but there the total council tax paid for a hugely more valuable property such as Buckingham Palace or mansion in band H is about half of what we in Eastbourne have to pay on a two bedroom band E with its market price a tiny fraction of the London property's market value.

In none of the cities or towns of Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc. do any such similar massive UK Human Rights Wrongs occur. Everywhere else revises their methodology at least once every five years and makes appropriate corrections to help ensure no one property is taxed higher than an equivalently priced property. There, property taxes are paid on both land and buildings owned by that property. 

These gross UK wrongs need to be reported to the European Court of Human Rights and Human Rights commissioners in Strasbourg, New York and elsewhere.

Property Valuation Bands

A Up to and including £40,000  
B £40,001 £52,000
C £52,001 £68,000
D £68,001 £88,000
E 88,001 £120,000
F £120,001 £160,000
G £160,001 £320,000
H More than £320,000  

These property Valuation Bands, still being used today, are, in 2018, 27 years out-of-date. Very few properties in the Eastbourne area are worth less than £88.000 and there are many properties worth considerably more than 320,000. For current prices in Eastbourne see http://www.home.co.uk/guides/house_prices.htm?location=eastbourne. It is obscenely unfair, a massive Human Rights wrong, that all properties valued below £320,000 should have to pay such high Council Taxes compared to properties worth from more than £320,000 to possibly millions of pounds which pay no additional Council Taxes at all.

Eastbourne Borough Council Council Taxes applicable in 2018-2019

See https://www.lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk/_resources/assets/inline/full/0/265536.pdf 

Council Taxes for 2018-2018 were 5.6% higher than those in 2017-2018 which were 4.99% higher than those shown for 2016-2017 which were increased by 3% from the previous year. 

Why are there only 8 banding areas of A-H? There should be 26, covering A-Z. As mentioned earlier, It is massively unfair that all properties valued below £320,000 should have to pay such high Council Taxes compared to properties worth from more than £320,000 to possibly millions of pounds which pay no additional Council Taxes at all.

council tax additions

Constant additions to council taxes without simultaneous proper re-valuations are costing homeowners disproportionately, especially those in council tax bands D and E

Appeals against Council Tax Valuation Bands, presently

See http://www.eastbourne.gov.uk/residents/council-tax/appeals/Apply to: Listing Officer, Valuation Office, St. Anne's House. Eastbourne BN21 3LG. Telephone: 03000 501 501. Fax: 01323 530 099.  

Making an appeal against a Council Tax Reduction decision. If you as a newcomer believe you are being unfairly Council Tax-banded, be sure to lodge your appeal within six months of your property purchase or rental or lease. To appeal against the Valuation Office's decision regarding a Council Tax Reduction application, you must write to that office identifying the decision and telling them why you think they are wrong. The technical term for this is making a ‘grievance." The Valuation Office  will write to you within two months from the date of receipt. It will tell you whether it agree or not with your appeal (grievance). If after it writes, you still disagree, or if you have not been replied within two months from the date the Valuation Office has received your appeal (grievance) then you may appeal to the Valuation Tribunal Service. You will need to fill in an appeal form. You can do this online at www.valuationtribunal.gov.uk or by telephoning: 0300 123 1033. You must send your appeal to the Valuation Tribunal within two months of the date of it writing to you, or if you have not received a reply within two months. Note that well over 90% appeals are dismissed, with the valuation office dismissing them for such things as unobstructed sea views very unfairly when this has already been built into the market place paid by a buyer. Also, instead of having appeals heard at the Eastbourne Valuation Office they are heard in often-out-of-the way areas which often make it difficult for appellants to attend. When they don't attend, their appeals are dismissed. 

If this appeal procedure does not work, and you genuinely feel you have good grounds, then appeal to your Member of Parliament - and, importantly - also your Members of the European Parliament mentioned below.

Recommended urgent action

Members of Parliament and European Parliament who should be righting the above wrongs but are not

All the MEPs, irrespective of political party, should be written to in order to ask their help to present these Human Rights Wrongs to the European Human Rights entity in Strasbourg while this is still possible under Brexit.

Keith also writes

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Written, administered and web-mastered in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, by

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Keith A. Forbes and Lois A Forbes at editor@sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk  
© 2019. Revised: February 14, 2019