In Brief

Dominic Cummings ‘let off’ 20 years of back taxes on Durham home

Government agency rules that PM’s adviser doesn’t have to pay out because property was built without planning permission

Dominic Cummings is not liable for almost 20 years of unpaid council taxes on the second home in Durham where he stayed with his wife and child during the coronavirus lockdown, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has decided.

Following an investigation, the government agency has ruled that while Boris Johnson’s closest adviser must now start paying tax on the Durham property, thousands of pounds in backdated bills should be waived because the home was built on his parents’ North Lodge estate without permission.

The case “was referred to the VOA in June after Durham County Council found there had been historical breaches of planning and building control regulation” during the construction of the property, in 2002,  and the conversion of another on the estate, The Guardian reports. 

The council tax for the two homes over the past two decades would have totalled between £30,000 and £50,000, but the entire bill has been “written off”, adds The Northern Echo.

Criticising the decision, independent Durham councillor John Shuttleworth told the regional newspaper that “if it was anybody else, they would be getting charged and it would be backdated, or they would be getting taken to court”.

That verdict was echoed by Liberal Democrat councillor Liz Brown, who told The Guardian that “it appears once again there is one law for the government’s cronies and another for ordinary people. I’m fairly sure that you or I wouldn’t be given an amnesty over back council tax.”

Council tax “is used in a great many ways to benefit the whole county”, so the VOA decision is effectively “penalising” Durham residents, she added. 

Cummings triggered widespread anger earlier this year by driving 260 miles from London to Durham with his family during the coronavirus lockdown after his wife developed Covid symptoms. At the height of the controversy, he told a Downing Street press conference that he had acted “responsibly and legally” and did not “regret what I did”.

A subsequent University College London study, outlined in a paper in The Lancet, found that news of his trip coincided with a drop in “people’s willingness to follow rules and guidelines from the government”.

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