Shrewsbury roundabouts floral displays under threat from 'advertising tax'
Floral displays on roundabouts around Shrewsbury are under threat from Government plans to impose business rates on small sponsored signs on the islands.
The Valuation Office Agency believes the signs count as advertisements and is looking to levy 25 traffic islands with business rates based on giving each of the signs an annual rental value of £600.
But Shrewsbury Town Council, which manages the roundabouts on behalf of Shropshire Council, claims the plans will drive sponsors away and result in the loss of floral displays and mean the islands are returned to grass.
The authority does not consider the signs to be advertisements.
Councillor Alan Mosley, leader of the town council, said if the charges come in "the only loser would be the public".
It could affect Shrewsbury's chances in this year's Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions competition the town is currently preparing for, after it won in the 'best small city' category last year.
The situation was discussed at Shrewsbury Town Council's finance and general purposes committee meeting in the Guildhall last night.
Town clerk Helen Ball updated councillors on the situation after a letter was sent by Councillor Mosley to the VOA asking for them to reconsider the plans in February.
Mrs Ball said the VOA, which is an executive agency of HM Revenue & Customs, had reiterated its position in its response by stating it did believe the signs count as advertisements and have a rateable value.
She said: "This isn't going to go away. It will potentially mean less money to spend on floral features in future."
A copy of Councillor Mosley's letter was included was provided to councillors at the meeting.
It said that small signs 600mm wide by 375mm deep are put up on roundabouts to recognise local businesses that have contributed to the cost of maintaining floral displays on them and are not intended as adverts.
He said: "We now find ourselves between the rock and a hard place as rating the business directly will inevitably result in businesses withdrawing their support and rating the Town Council and ultimately our Bloom Group will mean that they haven't the resources to plant the fine displays that they do and many of those roundabouts will have to reverted back to grass.
"The only loser would then be the public."
Councillor Peter Nutting said it may be worth the council putting in an official appeal against the plans.
Members agreed to provide more information to the VOA as the organisation had requested before taking any further steps.
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