This week's Councillor Column is written by Graham Hardie, Liberal Democrat councillor for Helensburgh Central...

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One of the less known boards on which I represent Argyll and Bute Council is the Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute Valuation Joint Board.

This is an independent local government body which was established at the last major re-organisation of local government in by the Valuation Joint Boards (Scotland) Order 1995.

It appoints the assessor and electoral registration officer (ERO) for the area, who has the responsibility to compile and maintain the valuation rolls, council tax valuation lists and registers of electors for the Argyll and Bute, East Dunbartonshire and West Dunbartonshire council areas. The Board is funded by these three authorities.

The rateable values derived by the Assessor, and entered into the valuation roll, are an estimate of the rental value of each property at a fixed point in time, and it’s these rateable values that form the basis upon which non-domestic rates are levied.

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The amount of rates to be paid is calculated by multiplying the rateable value by the rate in the pound, which is set nationally for each financial year, though various exemptions and reliefs are applied by the billing authorities.

Some property types are exempt from the valuation roll, including houses, agricultural buildings and public parks, though the rules affecting public park exemption are currently under review.

In April 1993, council tax replaced the Community Charge as the method of local government revenue collection for domestic properties. Unlike rating, under council tax legislation properties must be placed in a valuation band according to the capital/sales value of the property at 1991. There has never been a revaluation to update council tax bands since then.

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The register of electors contains details of everyone who is entitled to be included in the register and has made an application to be registered to vote. It is used to determine who can vote at elections.

A new register is published at least once a year, no later than December 1, and is available for inspection at public libraries, some council offices and at the offices of the ERO.

Electors can choose to have their names excluded from the version of the register made available for sale (the ‘Open Register’) whilst remaining on the version used at elections (the ‘Full Register’).

Thus the work of this board, while being less well known to the public than many other public bodies, is essential to the workings of our communities, and I applaud the professional and coherent manner in which the staff and board members complete all their tasks.

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