The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

Raising a Voluntary Church Rate

In 1986 (Hampstead's Millennium year) our church raised a voluntary rate towards the appeal for redecorating the interior of our Georgian building. The response was so good and the feedback so positive that we have continued to raise this rate every year since. We do, however, only make the appeal for the benefit of the maintenance of the building. It has never been suggested that money so raised, from people of other faiths and none, should be used for the running costs of the Parish.

Until it was impossible to use the rateable values for domestic property we sent a demand of a penny in the pound to every household within the parish boundary. Since the Council Tax was introduced we have based our demand on the band of the property. For Commercial Premises, for which the old system is still extant but for which rateable values are now so high, we ask for one tenth of a penny in the pound as being an acceptable amount.

This paragraph, worded by E G Nugee QC in 1986, makes it quite clear that the payment of such a levy is totally voluntary: -

Compulsory Church Rates were abolished in 1868; but every parochial church council has power "to make levy and collect a voluntary church rate for any purpose connected with the affairs of the church including the administrative expenses of the council and the costs of any legal proceedings": Parochial Church Councils (powers) Measure 1956, s.7(ii). The Compulsory Church Rates Abolition Act 1868 expressly provides that it shall be lawful for all bodies corporate and trustees who or whose beneficiaries are in the occupation of any lands or houses to pay, if they think fit, any church rate made in respect of the property although the same may not be enforceable, and the same shall be allowed to them in any accounts to be rendered by them: s.7. The only sanction for non-payment is that any person who fails to pay a church rate is precluded from exercising any right in respect of the expenditure of the rate, ie. he is not entitled to inquire into, object to or vote in respect of the monies arising from the rate: 1868 Act, s.8.

We have a Parochial Church Council Resolution every year to enable the rate to be raised.

The following resolution is in respect of the commercial properties.:-

"That pursuant to the powers conferred on the Council by Section 7 (ii) of the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956 a voluntary church rate of 0.1p in the pound on the rateable value of each hereditament in the Parish as shown on the non-domestic rating list of [Borough] be and is hereby made and levied for the maintenance and improvement of the fabric of the Parish Church of [Church] in respect of the period commencing on the 1st April 20__ and terminating on the 31st March 20__ and that the Churchwardens be authorised to collect the said rate by one single instalment."

and the formal demand on their letters :-

VOLUNTARY CHURCH RATE DEMAND NOTE for year ending 31 March 20__ at 0.1p in the £

Under the Parochial Church Council (Powers) Measure, 1956, passed under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Parochial Church Council has "power to make, levy and collect a voluntary Church Rate for any purpose connected with affairs of the Parish".
At a meeting of the Parochial Church Council, the Churchwardens were empowered to levy and collect a voluntary Church Rate for the maintenance and improvement of the fabric of the Parish Church of [Church]
The Churchwardens, in pursuance of the authority so given, do so now levy this Statutory Voluntary Rate, the only means established by law for the maintenance of the Parish Church, and for its work.

For the domestic properties the PCC resolution is :-

That a voluntary basic amount of £ sum for each dwelling in the parish in valuation band D, with amounts for dwellings in the other valuation bands in the proportions set out in Section 5(1) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, as shown in the valuation list maintained by [Borough] for the purpose of the Act, be levied for the maintenance and improvement of the fabric etc...

NB (The proportions for bands A to H are 6:7:8:9:11:13:15:18 ; thus a levy of £12 in band D results in £8 for band A, £9.33 for B, £10.67 for C, £12 for D, £14.54 for E, £17.33 for F, £20 for G and £24 for H.

Our letters to the domestic properties are just a general request to pay a particular sum of money, with an indication of on what we intend to spend the money and what we did with the money raised the previous year. They include a form to enable tax recovery, there is a good reason for the wording on this - we have tried tick boxes but some folk use a cross (and vice versa) and that means the tax cannot be reclaimed. We recommend that you use the wording which we have devised over the years to maximise the tax recovery. The form has place for the address label which means that donor does not have to write his/her address.
Sample form

We try to keep the letter to both domestic and commercial properties as friendly as possible whilst showing an efficient approach.

The information for each address that you need for council tax banding and rateable values are all in the public domain. We format it to fit labels (21 per page) addressing those for domestic properties to "The Occupier" and guess the most appropriate for each business - The Manager, The Office Manager, The Principal etc. Our Parish has a relatively small number of businesses (mostly shops) so we have a walk round noting the names so that it can be included on the label. When we print the labels the council tax band or rateable value are printed bottom right.

We have the letters professionally printed and folded to fit a self-seal window envelope. They could be "mail-merged" in a word processing programme but we feel that a hand finished form may make a greater impact .

Working party 1. 7 or 8 of us can stick the labels on the letters and fill in the amount in about 6 hours. We have just over 4000 properties.

Working party 2. We have a day (10 am until finished at about 2.30 pm) when volunteers (up to about 20 at any one time) stuff the envelopes. Coffee and lunch is provided. It's actually quite fun and gives everyone a chance to natter. Included in the envelopes is a freepost envelope and a leaflet with some information about the church, services and forthcoming events.

Delivery. Members of the congregation hand deliver all the letters.

Sample business letter
Sample domestic letter

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Council tax bands
Business rates

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