Are Putney & Wimbledon Residents Owed A Levy Rebate?

Local group believes an error by WPCC has resulted in over £75,000 being over charged

Map of the boundary of the Levy-paying area

Local pressure group Friends of Putney Common (FofPC) believe that there has been a discrepency in the calculation of the levy charged to residents living up to three quarters of a mile of the perimeter of Wimbledon Common, measured by the most direct route along roads or footpaths, or within the old Parish of Putney as it was in 1871 (which now includes much of Roehampton). Click to see map of the boundary of the Levy-paying area.The discrepency could mean that these residents have been overcharged.

Wimbledon and Putney Common Conservators set the levy each year to meet their annual expenditure and for the current financial year this was set at £1,135,935, an increase of 6.1% over the previous year.

A spokesperson for FofPC has told PutneySW15 that they believe the WPCC have used an incorrect RPI figure when calculating the levy in 2016/2017, which they believe affects: "Nearly 40,000 residents of Kingston, Merton and Wandsworth.... (who) could be in line for a share of a Council Tax rebate in excess of £75,000." He continued: "This is the view of a number of local residents who have spotted an error in the amount of the WPCC Levy charged to them in their Council Tax bills for the 2017/2018 Financial Year." Click here for the full statement.

Simon Lee, Chief Executive of Wimbledon & Putney Commons responded to that the Charity was aware of these accusations/figures and the matter would be discussed at the Board meeting on 12th June. He told the site: "The formula for calculating the levy is set out in the 1990 Statutory Instrument, when the responsibility for collecting the levy transferred from Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators to the three “relevant Councils” Merton, Wandsworth and Kingston. Since 1991 the formula has been applied in a consistent manner. Each year the Board determines whether it will collect the maximum or a proportion of the permissible levy for the forthcoming financial year. For the financial year 2017/18 the Board decided for the first time since 2011/12 to collect the maximum levy."

FofPC believe that this year’s increase in the WPCC Levy has been made in contravention to the provisions of the governing legislation which limits any annual increase to the retail price index (RPI). The spokesperson said: "In setting an amount for the current year the WPCC should not have increased the levy which was issued to the three Councils in 2016/2017 (£1,055,635) by more than the RPI published in September 2016 namely 2%. Therefore the aggregate levy for 2017/2018 should not have exceeded £1,077,187. The over charge is £58,748. The error has been brought to the attention of Kingston, Merton and Wandsworth Councils who have noted same with at least one Council advising that it is a matter for the WPCC and not them despite the Councils themselves having the responsibility of levying and collecting the levy as part of Council Tax."

FofPC believe that the WPCC maintain that they are entitled to apply previously foregone RPI increases to arrive at a higher base number for the previous year even although in taking this approach they are using an amount which was not issued to the three Councils as the legislation requires. The same residents who spotted the error are now looking at the levy intimated to the three Councils in previous years as they have noted that the 2016/2017 levy was also inflated and taking both years together the total overcharge is in excess of £75,000. Previous years may need to be audited to ensure that further overcharging has not taken place.

The FoPC spokesperson suggests that: "Rather than have the relevant Councils process modest rebates for the overcharging which has taken place the residents who have taken this up with the WPCC are proposing that the WPCC (i) make a payment to the three Councils in an amount equal to the overcharging and for this money to be applied by the Councils to their respective Adult Social Care precepts and (ii) correct the erroneous calculations which it has made in recent years so that the correct amount is used in calculating the WPCC Levy in future years."

A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council told PutneySW15: "The council is legally required to collect the levy set by the W&PCC.  If the Friends of Putney Common have provided us with this information we will look at it with great interest and if appropriate do what we can to seek a suitable remedy from the commons conservators. If any of our residents have been overcharged we would certainly want them to be reimbursed, but ultimately anyone affected by this issue will need to seek redress directly from the W&PCC as only it has the legal power to make changes to the levy.”

Merton Council has been asked to comment, and at time of publication has not responded.

June 7, 2017