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"Be on guard over council tax banding review claims"

Trading standards issue warning to Hungerford residents

John Garvey

Reporter:

John Garvey

West Berkshire Council logo

TRADING standards chiefs have warned Hungerford homeowners to be on their guard after letters were sent offering council tax band reviews.

Westbrook Close, in particular, was targeted by the firm, which tells residents they are paying too much council tax and offering to have it reduced.

But anyone can have the council tax band of their property reviewed for free.

One letter, addressed to “the homeowner” and sent to a property in Westbrook Close from ‘Council Tax Review Services’, states that the company believed the occupant is on the wrong council tax banding.

It added: “A neighbour in your close was successful in their banding review by ourselves… saving them almost £200 per year.”

We contacted the company and asked why it believed the occupant was on the wrong banding and whether it could back up its claim that it had saved a Westbrook Close resident £200 a year.

A spokesman for the firm, Paul Buck, claimed his company had been “defamed” by West Berkshire Council trading standards officers.

He insisted our questions be put in writing, before replying: “Thank you for your email, which has been forwarded on to our lawyers. As soon as they have any answers... either they will contact you or I will and will be happy to answer your questions.”

However, there had been no further reply as this newspaper went to press.

Council tax banding is determined by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), part of HM Revenue and Customs. Having it reviewed costs nothing – the VOA has no fees or charges and will guide homeowners through the process.

A spokesman for West Berkshire Council’s trading standards, Martin Dunscombe, said: “A Hungerford resident has been in touch with our trading standards team to discuss a letter received which offered a council tax rebate.

“We have provided some advice and arranged to visit the resident in the next few days.

“The trading standards team has written to local residents to share advice from the VOA on council tax banding.

“Anyone can check their council tax band is correct for free by contacting the Valuation Office Agency. In doing so residents need to understand that re-evaluation could result in a property being assessed at a higher band.”

The advice can be found at www.gov.uk/government/news/warning-bogus-council-tax-refund-scams

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