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Resident wins tax rebate for whole village
A FATHER-of-two’s dogged one-man fight for justice has resulted in a rebate for every council tax payer in his village.
Last year, Adam Foster discovered that, having promised to freeze council tax, Sherburn Parish Council, near Durham City, instead hit residents with a near eight per cent tax hike.
The unexpected rise was the result of a clerical error but, rather than correcting the mistake and reissuing reduced bills, the council decided to stick with the higher fees – leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.
Mr Foster, 37, refused to let the issue lie – persistently lobbying parish councillors – and now the authority has agreed to repay the wrongly-collected cash.
It is believed several hundred households stand to benefit, being repaid between £1.44 and £4.32 depending on the value of their property.
Mr Foster said: “I feel the council has treated residents with contempt. Why did they have to wait until the following January to guarantee the rebate?”
Last year’s error was a result of a newly appointed parish clerk being unfamiliar with the council’s arrangements for combating double taxation, aimed at avoiding households paying twice for some public services through both county and parish councils.
A 7.85 per cent rise was wrongly imposed, increasing Band D bills to £29.67 – or £2.16 extra over the year. In total, £2,620 was wrongly charged.
Stuart Walton, then parish council chairman, said issuing new bills would cost about £3,000 and be a waste of taxpayers’ money.
He promised the council would hold the cash until setting this year’s budget.
Mr Foster said the council should have apologised in the council newsletter. Instead, a letter was posted on the village noticeboard.
Councillor Walton, a Liberal Democrat, accused Mr Foster, a Labour supporter, of being politically motivated and said: “I don’t think anybody else (other than Mr Foster) is interested.”
Mr Foster, a school governor, said he only wanted what was right for residents. He had been asked to stand as a Labour candidate, he said, but declined.
Brian Colledge, the council’s new chairman, said only two people, including Mr Foster, had complained about the mistake.
"Villagers would be informed of the rebate in a newsletter within two weeks," he added.
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