CUMMINGS LOCKDOWN COTTAGE VISITED BY COUNCIL FOR COUNCIL TAX AVOIDANCE

Durham County Council (DCC) have now confirmed that the cottage Dominic Cummings travelled to during lockdown was not registered for council tax despite it be a separate dwelling. The council also found that planning breaches during a site visit on June 1st but, due to the uncertainty of when they took place, no further action will be taken. Regarding council tax banding, a report has been submitted to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) for them to make a decision as to what, if any, council tax should be levied on Cummings’ cottage.

As previously reported by Black Isle Media on May 31st, there was questions surrounding as to whether the cottage at the Cummings’ family farm had planning permission. After several complaints were submitted to Durham County Council (DCC), their planning department decided to open an investigation into the building at North Lodge to if:

  • They had the correct planning permissions
  • Whether the correct Council Tax was being paid for each property

The Council have now completed a swift investigation into the Cummings’ family farm and released a statement outlining their findings. This story has been picked up by several national news outlets, and after some pressure they cited myself as the origin of the story.

Stuart Timmiss, Durham County Council’s head of development and housing, said in a statement:

“While there have been historic breaches of planning and building control regulations, current legislation places a time limit on any enforcement measures and as a result no further action will be taken.

“We have also looked into the complaints raised in respect of non-payment of council tax and will be passing our findings on to the Valuation Office for its consideration and review.”

However, the BBC and other outlets did not know what the actual planning breaches were. Black Isle Media has been passed a response to one of the complainants which outlines the situation on Council Tax. It is this that should be highlighted as it is in principle, a form of tax evasion. Dominic Cummings is himself a joint owner of the property and is therefore jointly liable for ensuring that the correct legalities are in place.

Site Visit Confirms Separate Dwelling

A response to one of those who complained to Durham County Council. | Copyright: © Black Isle Media

As can be seen above, DCC sent officials to North Lodge on June 1st, the very same day the complaint was made. Head of Finance & Transactional Services, Paul Darby told the complainant;

“I can confirm that we were recently made aware that separate living accommodation may exist at North Lodge, Burn Hall, Durham which did not appear in the Council Tax Valuation List.

“The existence of this separate living accommodation was confirmed by a site visit to the property on 1 June 2020 as part of a planning investigation. This additional living accommodation relates to a converted outbuilding.

“We will be reporting this matter to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), part of HM Revenues and Customs, for them to make a determination on whether to bring this separate accommodation into the Council Tax Valuation list. It is a matter for the VOA to determine whether or not and at what banding this accommodation should be included in the Valuation List not the Council.

“If the VOA consider that it should be included in the Council Tax Valuation List, they will place the property into the appropriate band for Council Tax purposes and Council Tax bills will be then be issued by the Council from the effective date that the property is brought into the Valuation List.”

An aerial photograph of North Lodge. The main building is on the right with the green roofed cottage Cummings stayed at, on the left. |© Google Earth

As previously reported, there is only one outbuilding at the location as can be seen in the aerial photograph above. It is the Cottage that Dominic Cummings travelled to with his family during lockdown.

So now we not only have Dominic Cummings travelling to a second home during lockdown, testing his eyesight by driving 30 miles, and just outright misleading people, he did so at a property that he should have been paying Council Tax for. It is unclear what, if any, action can be taken regarding previous non payment. Cummings did state he resided at the cottage on two separate occasions, so it is not out of the question that he was avoiding Council tax at that time.

I am also waiting on the UK Coal Authority to get back to me regarding their investigation into the property. This is important as their initial finding was that no permission had been sought to erect the cottage on land that the title deed makes clear twice, must be obtained prior to construction.

I will keep you updated on any further developments surrounding this story. Please consider sharing this and the original article as, bar the BBC, several other mainstream outlets are refusing to cite me.

Downing Street was contacted for comment but did not respond. They have refused to give any media outlet a comment regarding this story.

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