Following an investigation by Durham County Council after Dominic Cummings’ visit to Durham during lockdown, it was determined that changes to the North Lodge property had breached planning and building control regulations, and that council tax was due on the property dating back many years.
Since this information was passed to the Valuation Office Agency, it has since been decided by the Government agency that no backdated council tax will be pursued, and that the property will only be liable for council tax from October 2020. This decision by the Valuation Office has once again sparked anger and confusion across the county as to how the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser can once again apparently face no consequences to what appears to be a flagrant breach of regulations.
Following this decision, County Durham MPs Kevan Jones and Grahame Morris joined with Mary to contact the Valuation Office Agency and demand answers as to why this council tax will not be backdated, and to request that this decision is reviewed. The letter reads:
We are writing to you in connection with the recent decision by the Valuation Office to not backdate any of the owed council tax on the above-named property.
As you will no doubt be aware, the property in question, and the decision taken by the Valuation Office have been of local and national interest, given that this was the destination of the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings when he made his ill advised trip to Durham during the period of national lockdown.
Subsequent to his visit to the area, Durham County Council carried out an investigation on the property, and discovered a number of planning and building control regulation breaches at this address. Unfortunately, due to the time that had elapsed since these breaches, the local authority was unable to take any enforcement action, and immediately informed the Valuation Office of these breaches. Despite this, the decision was taken by the Valuation Office to not pursue any backdated council tax on the property in question, even thought Durham County Council provided evidence that these changes date back to 2002.
The decision of Mr Cummings to visit Durham during lockdown, and then this subsequent decision by the Valuation Office to not pursue this backdated council tax has created a huge amount of anger and frustration in our constituencies and across the country, and will simply have the effect of further eroding trust in our laws and regulations. Our communities will rightly want to know how the Government’s senior adviser has once again apparently suffered no consequences to breaching rules that the rest of us are expected to follow. As with Mr Cummings’ decision to visit Durham when we were all instructed by the Government to stay at home, this appears to be a case of one rule for the Government and its staff, and another for the rest of us.
We would therefore be grateful for an explanation as to why this decision was reached by the Valuation Office. We would also ask that you review this case and make sure that, in the interests of fairness, all steps are taken to ensure that this council tax is collected.