ӣƵ

Call to end ‘opaque’ parish rate system

1026328186 (38554007)

“INEQUITABLE” and “opaque” parish rates need to be scrapped in favour of one Islandwide system, according to a former States Member.

Jennifer Bridge, who was a Deputy of St Helier, has written to Mike Jackson, chair of the Constables’ Committee, asking Constables to commit to the change, as most parishes currently have different methods for calculating payments.

Quarters – the unit of measurement that is allocated to each property – for a three-bedroom house vary, and some list different attributes and ways to calculate based on comparisons.

Miss Bridge, a resident of Grouville, said that a freedom-of-information response outlining the methods piqued her interest and prompted her to ask Mr Jackson: “Given that there are 12 different rates assessment methodologies, will the Comité des Connétables commit to producing one Islandwide methodology within a reasonable time period and, if not, why not?”

She said: “Surely if it was a fair and equitable system, you should be able to put the attributes of your property into each methodology and get the same outcomes. But that’s not what happens.”

She added: “We’re a very small island, so it seems really odd that each parish has a different way of calculating rates.

“It seems intuitive, or common sense, that for something to be applied fairly, all the parishes should have the same methodology.

“None of us are rates experts because it’s quite an opaque system and it would be useful for the parishes to explain to us how they do it and what their justification is for having 12 different systems.

“There’s the pragmatic sense that we’ve always done it this way, so we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask questions about it.”

On Friday, Miss Bridge said that Mr Jackson had acknowledged receipt of her email within two hours of her having sent it and said that he would revert with an informed response.

How rates are assessed – particularly in Miss Bridge’s parish of Grouville – has frequently been thrust into the spotlight.

Last October, three appeals by Grouville parishioners to the Island’s Rate Appeal Board were upheld, prompting Constable Mark Labey to ask Grouville’s assessment committee to scrutinise the allocation of quarters.

The successful appeals meant that the parish’s 2,300 ratepayers may have been paying a disproportionately high contribution to the Islandwide rate, compared to the other 11 parishes.

All Constables are members of a rates supervisory committee which must, by law, “encourage and promote uniformity in rateable values throughout ӣƵ”.

RATES

The Islandwide rate ensures that all parishes help cover the cost of ӣƵ’s welfare system, while parish rates cover parish-specific costs. The value of rates is set annually at parish assemblies.

A Guide for Assessors – Overview was produced following the introduction of the Rates (ӣƵ) Law 2005 and was revised in 2012.

St Brelade: The assessment of domestic property is based on a points system for attributes such as accommodation and a multiplier for the quality, size and location. Extra points are added for a “high-quality build” and whether it has a “sea or country view”.

Grouville: Comparison is made with other property or land with similar attributes.

St Clement: A comparison system is not used, but quarters are added for various attributes, such as whether you have a “kitchen diner” or a “kitchen/lounge/diner”.

St John: Similar to St Clement but the quarters for various attributes are different.

St Helier: Commercial property, such as shops in prime positions, are assessed based on the zone – the length of frontage to the main street. The first 30 feet from the main entrance are zone A, the next 30 feet are Zone B etc. Parking is assessed according to whether it is covered or not and whether it is used exclusively for domestic purposes. Hotels and guesthouses are assessed according to the grading (five-star, four-star, etc).

St Martin: Property with attributes that differ from an average property, for example location, will be assessed by comparison with other property/land with similar attributes in the parish and across the Island.

St Mary: Comparison is made with other property/land with similar attributes.

St Ouen and St Lawrence are similar, and comparison is made with other property/land with similar attributes in the parish and across the Island.

St Peter: This parish has a differently banded system to the others.

St Saviour: In this parish, you will pay different amounts for a “porch normal” (400) or a “porch very small” (200).

Trinity: Graded system which goes from Very Poor A, Poor A, Mid A – B, Average B, Mid B – C, Better C, C + 20%, C+ 40%, C + 50%.

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