Durham County Council boss Simon Henig has asked senior officers to find a way to force Dominic Cummings to pay tens of thousands of pounds of backdated council tax.
The Northern Echo exclusively reports that “two properties, including the Mr Cummings’ notorious ‘lockdown cottage’, at the family farm near Durham, were built in breach of planning regulations and are now liable for council tax”, and that senior officers have been instructed to “find a way” to force him to pay up.
Durham County Councillor John Shuttleworth said: “If it was anybody else, they would be getting charged and it would be backdated, or they would be getting taken to court.
“It just proves there is two sets of rules, one for them and another for everyone else. It is not right.
Cllr Henig said he was responding to mounting public anger at Boris Johnson’s chief aide.
“We have to abide by the law and it we don’t you get put in prison or you get fined. They are just above it.”
He said: “It seems that anyone working for the Prime Minister is exempt from the rules that apply to the rest of us.
“I have asked that all options to appeal this decision be considered.”
Two properties, including Mr Cummings’ notorious ‘lockdown cottage’, at the family farm near Durham, were built in breach of planning regulations and are now liable for council tax.
But, following an investigation, the Valuation Office Agency, said the charges at North Lodge Farm, off the A167, which amount to around £3,000 a year, would not be backdated to 2002 when Mr Cummings carried out the conversion with his father.
It follows the scandal earlier in the year when Mr Cummings travelled to the region with his family in breach of lockdown laws while suffering from coronavirus symptoms.
County Durham’s Labour Party MPs said it shows the political advisor thinks he is ‘above the law’.
Durham County Councillor Simon Henig
Cllr Henig said he was acting out of a sense of ‘fairness’ at the Valuation Office Agency decision.
He has requested that chief officers look into all possible options for an appeal of the national decision and has said that the VOA ruling should be justified in Parliament.
Cllr Henig said: “As a party that is committed to fairness, as soon as we were aware of a potential breach in regulations at North Lodge, council officers were instructed to investigate the matter.
“In turn, Durham County Council alerted the Valuation Office Agency, which provided details of the required changes in respect to property.
“However, while there have been historical breaches of planning and building control regulation, which date back to the time of the former Durham City Council, the current council was unable to take enforcement action due to the amount of time that had elapsed.
“People will want to know how, once again, the Government’s senior adviser is avoiding facing any consequences for breaching a set of regulations to which everyone else is expected to adhere.”
Furthermore, it is imperative that the Valuation Office Agency be made accountable for this decision in Parliament so that public confidence in the council tax system be maintained.”
The Cummings family has previously declined to comment on the situation when approached by The Northern Echo.
Downing Street has been contacted for a comment, but has not yet responded
The VOA, which is part of HM Revenue and Customs, does not comment on individual cases, but sent a statement to the Northern Echo after it was revealed council tax would now be owed on the properties.
The statement said: “We treat all council taxpayers equally and in accordance with the law.
“Changes to show multiple self-contained units would not be backdated.
“If the property has remained in your ownership during the period when any changes were made there would not typically be backdated liabilities.”
This article came Exclusive by Gavin Havery