Maths lessons for inspectors so they don't miss an inch of your home
By Jonathan Oliver
COUNCIL tax inspectors are being given maths and geometry lessons to help
them spy on homeowners. The Government snoopers are to be taught
Pythagoras's Theorem and algebraic equations
in readiness for a Labour property tax revaluation. The Mail on Sunday has
obtained a Government handbook detailing the formulae inspectors will use
to ensure they do not miss a single square foot when they enter people's
houses. Under the heading 'phunky formulae' the document explains how to
use geometry to calculate areas when irregular shapes are created by bay
windows, chimney breasts and loft extensions. It means that no part of people's
home - however small - will escape the new tax net.
Although Ministers insist that the planned council tax revaluation is on
hold until after the next General Election, Government inspectors are quietly
continuing to build up a database on every home in England and Wales. This
will include detailed information about the condition of the property and
its internal and external area. It will also take into account location -
and proximity to golf courses. It means that when Labour announces its expected
overhaul of local taxation, much of the data needed to draw up new council
tax bands will already be stored on Government computers.
The information is available for collection now because the Government has
a contract with the property web-site Rightmove to access its archive of
sales particulars for homes that have been on the market. The official database
will still have many gaps when the revaluation is finally given the go-ahead.
So when it does happen, millions of householders can expect to receive a
knock on the door from inspectors equipped with laser measuring devices.
The property data is being compiled by the Valuation Office Agency, an arm
of the Treasury which employs 5,000 staff, including 600 inspectors dedicated
to collecting council tax information.
A report commissioned by Gordon Brown last month raised the prospect of big
tax hikes under a new council-tax system which could push millions of homes
into higher bands.Sir Michael Lyons proposed new 'super bands' for the most
expensive properties in the South East. Many ordinary homeowners would be
hit as a result of the recent rises in the values of homes they may have
owned for decades.
A separate revaluation in Northern Ireland has caused a political revolt
as impoverished pensioners have faced an overnight doubling of their tax
bills. Conservative local government spokeswoman Caroline Spelman said: 'Giving
tax inspectors special lessons in how to calculate the internal space of
people's homes shows Gordon Brown will stop at nothing to drive council taxes
up further. 'Regardless of people's privacy, this handbook aims to ensure
that not one square foot of people's homes escapes taxation.'
The Valuation Office Agency's handbook reveals just how ambitious its attempts
to update the property database have become. The book dubs the so-called
'Phunky Formula' as 'all the formulae you'll ever need and some you'll hope
you never use!!' It goes on to reveal the extraordinary detail of the
measurements required: 'For council tax purposes dimensions should be shown
to two places of decimals, areas to one place of decimals.' And it explains
how Pythagoras's Theorem can be used to calculate dimensions of
right-angled triangles potentially useful for calculating the size of awkward
loft spaces and areas created by dormer windows. There is also an explanation
of how to use
constant pi to calculate the area covered by curved spaces. This
would help inspectors calculate the space occupied by round bay windows,
found in millions of suburban homes. And the handbook also explains how to
measure the area of irregular four-sided shapes to make sure that odd-shaped
gardens or rooms in old houses can be accurately sized up.
The VOA insists it has no powers to force its way into people's homes but
admits inspectors would 'sometimes' ask to visit a property 'when the information
it needs cannot be ascertained from other sources'. A spokesman said: 'This
is routine guidance for keeping existing records up to date. That has been
the VOA's job since 1993 when the last Government introduced council tax
and nothing has changed. 'Anyone who opposes proper training to carry out
routine work is advocating inaccurate valuations which no one in their right
mind would want.'
As all school pupils OUGHT to know, Pythagoras's
Theorem states that in any right-angled triangle, the square of the longest
side is equal to the sum of the squares of the two other sides.
266 ways the Government can enter your house
- and you can't stop them
By Mark Nicol
IT COULD be a statistic straight from George Orwell's chilling masterpiece
1984 - State officials have 266 justifications to enter your home. Alas,
the figure is not a figment of Orwell's imagination but the reality of Britain
in 2007. The table on the right shows some of the many powers today's army
of health and safety inspectors, bailiffs, Customs officers, quango officials
and policemen can use to gain entry to your property. A study by the Centre
for Policy Studies found that 25 new statutory powers to enter private properties
had arisen since 2000, adding to the 120 granted legislative approval in
the Eighties and Nineties. The others date back further. In most cases entry,
if denied, can be gained by force. Homeowners face fines and criminal charges
if they obstruct officials who knock on their doors. Study author Richard
Snook said: 'This research shows the State today enjoys widespread access
to what was previously considered to be the private domain. 'Some of the
new entry powers have their origins in EU directives and regulations, rather
than with an Act of Parliament passed by the UK's elected legislators.' Shadow
Home Secretary David 'Davis said: 'This is a sinister reflection of the power
the State AM's in the lives of the citizen.
JUST A FEW OF THE LAWS THEY USE
2006 Animals and Animal Products Regulations 'Inspections
related to Common Agricultural Policy'
2006 EC Fertilisers Regulations 'Supervise fertiliser
2006 Childcare Act 'Where childcare is suspected of being
provided in contravention of licensing requirements'
2006 Products of Animal Origin Regulations 'Check for
compliance with import controls'
2006 Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Regulations
'Prevent spread of BSE etc'
2005 Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 'Switch
off noisy alarm'
2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act 'Search for person to
be made subject of control order and serve notice'
2005 Animal By-Products Regulations 'Inspect for compliance
with EC rules on animal by-products'
2004 Asylum and Immigration Act
'Enter to search for non-qualified provision of immigration advice or
2004 Housing Act 'Ascertain compliance with housing standards
or related services
2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act 'Inspection of high hedges'
2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act 'Carry out work on graffiti'
2003 Money Laundering Act 'Inspect for evidence of money
2003 Communications Act 'Search for evidence of unlicensed
2002 Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 'Search for
evidence of tobacco advertising offences'
2002 Copyright and Trade Marks Act 'Search for evidence
of dishonestly receiving transmissions for which payment is required'
2002 Adoption and Children Act 'Inspect premises where
adopted child is living'
2001 EC Competition Law 'Inspect for compliance with
EC Competition rules'
2000 Utilities Act 'Inspect electrical kit used in supply,
repair kit, remove meter, inspections related to electricity supply'
1999 Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 'Search for documents
relating to administration of pension scheme'
1998 Land Mines Act 'Carry out fact-finding mission in
accordance with Ottawa Convention on Landmines'
1998 Competition Act 'Obtain evidence of restrictive
trading, cartel offences or abuse of dominant market position'
1980 Bees Act 'Check for the presence of foreign bees'
1955 Children and Young Persons Act 'To search for materials
used to produce horror comics'
Read all 266 reasons at
The Mail on Sunday Apr22,2007