Care home refurbishment results in heavy council tax bill for residents

Cookers and kitchen sinks have landed care
home residents with council tax bills of more than £1,000

RNIB-run Kathleen Chambers House in
Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset – which is home to 37 residents mostly in
their 80s and 90s – was previously exempt from council tax because
it was a residential care home.

But a programme of upgrading in 1996 –
following the recommendations of a 1991 Social Services
Inspectorate report – resulted in the home’s reassessment for
council tax purposes by the Inland Revenue’s valuation office
agency – the body responsible for allocating properties to council
tax bands.

The addition of cookers, kitchen sinks and
en-suite bathrooms meant the residents’ rooms were now “individual
dwellings” according to regulations and thus attracted council tax
of £1,266 per person, backdated to January 2000.

Sedgemoor Council, which collects the tax,
claimed it was left with no choice but to impose the agency’s

“Our hands are tied,” said the council’s head
of revenues Ruth Pearson.

But the residents and RNIB have hit out at the
decision on the grounds that it penalises attempts to comply with,
and improve on, national minimum standards for care homes.

Issued by the Department of Health and due to
come into force next April, the standards aim to improve residents’
private accommodation and enable independent living.

RNIB director of community services Jon
Barrick described the decision as “totally unjust and deplorable”,
adding: “It seems completely absurd that residential care homes are
not exempt from this.”

Pearson said the council was looking at the
possible exemptions, discounts, allowances and benefits that might
be employed to alleviate the residents’ problems, and hoped to
resolve matters with the RNIB.

She added: “We’ve spoken with the Local
Government Association on this matter. They are going to have a
meeting with the agency, but we haven’t heard anything yet.”

The LGA’s policy officer on local taxation,
David Maddison, said the valuation office agency and Department of
Transport, Local Government and the Regions were considering the
issues around Kathleen Chambers House, and other similar
organisations, but no decision had been reached.

“There’s a need to ensure that one initiative
doesn’t counter the other one,” added Maddison.

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