West Suffolk: Councils call for crackdown on pub and club owners avoiding business rates
10:30 29 March 2014
Councils in west Suffolk are urging the Government to help them crack down on pubs and clubs avoiding their business rates.
Members of the Anglia Revenues Partnershp (ARP) - which includes St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath - have written to MPs and the chief executive of the Local Government Association, asking for changes that allow councils to suspend a premises licence to provide alcohol and entertainment if business rates are not paid.
It comes after a series of cases where pub and club owners have deliberately failed to pay their business rates, gone bust and merely started the process on the same premises all over again.
David Ray, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s cabinet member for resources, said: “Provided an applicant for a premises licence can demonstrate they comply with licensing objectives such as public safety and not causing nuisance, we are required to grant them a licence - regardless of any persistent failure to pay their business rates.
“It makes no sense that we must grant the means to run up even more debt that we have small hope of recovering.
“It is at the expense of the vast majority of businesses who effectively end up subsidising the persistent non-payers - and at the expense of local people, depriving them of funding for public services.”
The ARP collects council tax and business rates for four local councils, with St Edmundsbury ahead of schedule for its collection rates this year.
Mr Ray added: “Most businesses pay their rates and we will work with them to try and avoid getting behind. Even without the licensing changes we will continue to pursue all unpaid bills, but the changes would certainly help ensure the same standard for everyone.”