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Review urged over council tax decision involving site of Dominic Cummings’ trip

By Tom Wilkinson, PA
·2-min read

Labour has called for a review of the decision not to charge thousands of pounds in backdated council tax on the property where Downing Street senior adviser Dominic Cummings stayed during his famous Durham lockdown visit.

The leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, said there was mounting anger about the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) decision not to pursue council tax on two buildings which had been converted into homes without planning permission at Mr Cummings’ parents’ farm.

It has been estimated that the backdated council tax bill for the two homes could be more than £30,000, as they were converted some years ago.

Councillor Henig has asked senior officers to see if they can appeal against the decision, and will ask for a Parliamentary Review of the VOA’s actions.

Mr Cummings and his wife took his son to his parents’ farm at North Lodge when the country was in lockdown in April after the adviser and his wife experienced coronavirus symptoms.

It was during this break that he controversially drove to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.

Mr Henig said: “As a party that is committed to fairness, as soon as we were aware of a potential breach in regulations at North Lodge, council officers were instructed to investigate the matter.

“In turn, Durham County Council alerted the Valuation Office Agency, which provided details of the required changes in respect to property.

“However, while there have been historical breaches of planning and building control regulation, which date back to the time of the former Durham City Council, the current council was unable to take enforcement action due to the amount of time that had elapsed.

“People will want to know how, once again, the Government’s senior adviser is avoiding facing any consequences for breaching a set of regulations to which everyone else is expected to adhere.

“It seems that anyone working for the Prime Minister is exempt from the rules that apply to the rest of us.

“I have asked that all options to appeal this decision be considered.

“Furthermore, it is imperative that the Valuation Office Agency be made accountable for this decision in Parliament so that public confidence in the council tax system be maintained.”

A Valuation Office Agency spokesperson said: “We can’t comment on individual cases. The date to be used for adding a new band to a council tax list, or changing an existing band, is set out in the law.

“The VOA has no discretion to choose a different date.

“The rules apply to all council tax list alterations and all taxpayers in the same way.”