13/09/2006

Hanson defends new capital value rating system

Finance Minister, David Hanson MP has defended the new capital value rating system and reaffirmed his decision not to introduce a maximum limit, explaining that a cap would have to be paid for by other ratepayers.

Launched earlier this month, the Northern Ireland Fair Rates Campaign wants household rates to be capped in line with the council tax in Great Britain.

The first valuations were sent to householders in Northern Ireland at the start of July, and those who wish to challenge or query their rates estimate have six months to do so.

More than 7,000 homeowners have already challenged the rateable estimates of their homes.

Not everyone will have to pay all or any of the new charges. More than 175,000 households will pay a reduced rate or no rates at all.

If a cap were to be set at a capital value level equivalent to the highest Council Tax Bills in England (those in Band H), it would benefit less than 3,000 properties here - less than half percent of the entire Northern Ireland housing stock. These households would have capital values of around £500,000 and over, as at 2005.

Hanson commented: "In making the decision not to introduce a maximum limit, I was conscious that if a cap were imposed I would be asking other ratepayers to shoulder a larger share of the rates burden."

Turning to the issue of those on low income, Mr Hanson said: "At present almost 175,000 low income households receive support with paying their rates. The new rate relief scheme aims to assist those just outside the housing benefit thresholds. Around 40,000 households could receive assistance, with on average £270 awarded. I am conscious that many older people may be reluctant to claim this relief for a number of reasons, but I would encourage anyone on low income to apply for this entitlement."

Hanson also said that if politicians wished to express their concerns about the changes they could do so as long as they met the devolution deadline on November 24.

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