|Commons Conservators Accused Of "Maladministration"
New boundary maps show significant changes from earlier versions
Wimbledon & Putney Conservators have been accused of failing to maintain an accurate and reliable map of their Levy catchment area.
Local community group, The Friends of Putney Common (FofPC), have said this has led to a number of residents being taxed incorrectly, while others failed to have the Levy collected.
Following evidence provided by the FofPC, the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators (WPCC) have now published a revised map of the Levy catchment, prepared by Ordnance Survey (OS).
The new map uses the definition set out in the 1871 Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act and amended by a Statutory Instrument (SI 1990/201) in 1990.
"The failure has led to three local authorities taxing some residents, incorrectly, while ignoring others. The Conservators need to explain in detail how this could have happened and why they lacked the controls to ensure that the annually collected Levy was based on the most accurate information available. The Conservators are a shambles in terms of governance.”
The Commons Levy is paid by all Council taxpayers within the designated boundaries defined by the 1871 Act of Parliament that created the Commons and specified how it should be run.
A spokesperson for WPCC told PutneySW15: "David Devons, Chairman of Wimbledon and Putney Commons has advised that whilst the road map of the Levy-paying area has been periodically examined, as part of the triennial election procedures, the Conservators have been conscious of the need to move to a digital map. This is particularly important to ensure that, for the forthcoming Conservator Election in February 2015, the boundary of the Levy-paying area is as accurate as possible and that all potential electors have an opportunity to vote.
• The new OS digital map indicates that there are significant discrepancies between the old and newly produced maps as a result of new developments and other changes;
• Some properties have been incorrectly obliged to pay the Levy through their Council tax. Other residences which should have been included in the Levy-paying area have been excluded;
• A detailed review is underway, to establish accurately the number of properties incorrectly classified. An example of the inaccuracies includes homes in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames excluded from paying the Levy, despite being within the historic boundaries.
• Conversely parts of entire streets have been wrongly included in the current Levy paying area. In a single Wandsworth street some 22 homes are incorrectly classified, another nearby has 38. A street in Kingston has 21 homes incorrectly paying the tax. New developments totalling hundreds of homes have been excluded from the Levy-paying area, despite being occupied for years. For example, an initial review by FofPC has identified discrepancies in Amity Grove, Merton; Kingston Hill Place, Kingston; Buttermere Drive, Portinscale Road, Keswick Road, Monck’s Row and Coldstream Gardens all in Wandsworth. FofPC expects a detailed review will identify numerous further errors.
• It seems likely that any residents who have been incorrectly paying the Commons’ Levy, (through their Council tax bills), will be entitled to claim a refund, in many case for decades. The Conservators accept that refunds will need to be made. The average Levy paid in Wandsworth collected through the Council Tax is just over £34 a year.
• The Levy-paying area also drives the electoral lists for the Conservators’ elections and therefore similar discrepancies will flow through. The “WPCC electoral roll” as it currently stands is fundamentally inaccurate, and has been for many years. Again entire streets of dozens of homes are “entitled” to vote under the old map, but “not entitled” under the new accurate version.
• Some properties which are within the Levy-paying boundary have not been included, and these have not paid the Levy, adding a further burden on those who pay. It would appear that the discrepancies in some cases occurred yearly since the 1871 Act was revised with a Statutory Instrument in 1990.
• The list of voters for the Conservators’ elections has been similarly skewed. Some residents who were able to vote in previous elections should not have been entitled; others who should have been enfranchised were not. This calls into question results of the elections.
• The new map shows that an additional local authority also has Levy-payers. Parts of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames fall within the boundary and many residents will become Levy-payers and will need to be enfranchised. The Conservators will be obliged to introduce arrangements to collect the Levy, in conjunction with Richmond Council.
Refunds to some Levy payers may need to be calculated , a spokesman for Fof PC said:
October 23, 2014