Move to allay fears of rates shock for Shropshire community groups

The leader of Shropshire Council today sought to allay the fears of charity workers and community groups in wake of the news they could soon have to pay business rates on the buildings they use.

Shrewsbury Railway Heritage Trust, based at the old Abbey Station, is one of the groups to have received the letter. Photo: Google StreetView.
Shrewsbury Railway Heritage Trust, based at the old Abbey Station, is one of the groups to have received the letter. Photo: Google StreetView.

But Councillor Peter Nutting has pledged that he intends to protect good causes from any big rises in bills.

Letters have been sent to those affected by the council's revenues and benefits service manager, notifying them of the rate change, which could come in to force on April 1 2019.

The letter says: "Should there be any reduction or removal of discretionary relief awarded, then Section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 dictates that those ratepayers affected should be given a financial year's notice. Subject to amendments made to our policy, the discretionary rate relief currently awarded will be reduced or totally removed with effect from April 1 2019.”

A review of rates is undertaken every three years and in 2015, discretionary rate relief of up to 100 per cent is currently granted to community interest companies and not for profit organisations.

Any changes in the rates bill will depend on buildings used by groups, but it could leave some groups more than £1,000 worse off.

Today Councillor Nutting sought to clarify the situation and to allay the fears of community groups.

Policy

He said: “Reviewing our policy of giving businesses discretionary relief on business rates is the right thing to do every three years to make sure we don’t create unfair advantage or disadvantage to our business community as a whole.

"Ultimately decisions will be made at our May full council meeting if there are to be any recommended changes to our current policy.

"However, I want to be clear that in principle it is not our intention to apply full business rates to charities or good causes”.

A council spokeswoman added: "Shropshire Council reviews its policy on discretionary business rate relief every three years. This was last undertaken in 2015. It is important that businesses pay appropriate business rates in order to be fair to all businesses. As part of this process we notify relevant businesses that there could be changes as part of the review and this is why some businesses have received a letter.

"Any amendments required changes to policy will be put to the council in May 2018 for decision."

One group affected will be Shrewsbury Railway Heritage Trust, based at the old Abbey Station.

It relies heavily on contributions from visitors to keep running.

Trust director David Morris said: “The council only gave us the freehold of the building last year and now it seems the same council is penalising us with this levy."

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