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Concern at 'paparazzi' tax inspectors spying on homes across the Malvern Hills

3rd February 2007

Council tax revaluation taking place by stealth across England warns Harriett Baldwin

Harriett Baldwin, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate West Worcestershire this week expressed concern at reports of "paparazzi" surveillance being covertly rolled out by the Valuation Office Agency - an arm of Inland Revenue. In a stealth council tax revaluation exercise, every home in the country faces photographs of their home - inside and outside - being stored on a computer database, in order to identify features which could be taxed.

  • Two million homes already snapped by stealth: Covert photogrpahy is already under way by the council tax inspectors, despite the supposed delay in the English council tax revaluation. New figures have revealed that in the last year, the number of photographs of homes stored on the system has soared from half a million to over two million.
  • Estate agents collaborating in privacy raid: The Valuation Office Agency is also using taxpayers' money to obtain information on the outside and inside of people's homes - by buying up the data from estate agents, Rightmove. Unsuspecting homeowners are putting their property on the market without realising that the tax inspectors are using it to find out how to hike up council tax bills.
  • Tax spies armed with clipboards and long-distance cameras: The 'Health & Safety' manual of the council tax inspectors reveals that they are being armed with telescopic lenses & cameras, clipboards, laser pens and location plans and maps of every home. The inspectors are instructed to record any abusive or hostile behaviour by householders. They have the power to impose £500 fines, via the courts, on any household who refuses entry or obstructs the state snoopers.
  • Scrap these powers says Opposition: Conservatives are pledging that the next Conservative Government will abolish the powers of the inspectors to enter people's homes and gardens.

Harriett Baldwin said,

"I am very concerned that the privacy and property of honest, law-abiding citizens is under threat from paparazzi-style council tax inspectors.

"There is already public unease at Labour plans for a compulsory national Identity Card Database and the new Children's Database. The Government is now rolling out a property photo database to match and conducting a council tax revaluation by stealth across the country.

"Not only are civil liberties under threat, but I fear the photographs taken by these tax inspectors will be used to hike taxes on family homes - by taxing features like conservatories, extensions, gardens and patios. Conservatives are campaigning against these plans to send camera-wielding inspectors into West Worcestershire's bedrooms, bathrooms and gardens, and we will abolish the snoopers' powers of entry."

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