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Gloucestershire Business News

Local authorities fail to give out tens of thousands of pounds of business rate relief

Two local authorities in Gloucestershire have failed to pass on tens of thousands of pounds in business rate relief - for the second year running.

The year before last local authorities had an extra sum of money to deliver to businesses to help them with rate relief, with four out of the six Gloucestershire authorities failing to hand out significant sums.

This year (2018/2019) Gloucester City Council and Tewkesbury have again failed to deliver significant chunks of the money they are given to hand out to business on their patches.

Figures released to Punchline by campaigner Ian Sloan, of chartered surveyor Bankier Sloan, which has offices in Moreton-in-Marsh, show Gloucester was given £97,783 for the 2018/2019 financial year and has been left with £52,731 of that after the deadline has passed.

Tewkesbury was given £92,953 and was left with £28,000.

Punchline understands the onus is on the local authorities to allocate the money to the businesses on their patch and they have a set period in which to do so. It is not on businesses to request what they may be due.

"We are amazed that the apparent errors in creating the scheme in the first instance have been allowed to continue into year two. Many local businesses will have lost free central government funding in the last two year due to the creation of a poor scheme by the local council.

"The funding was ringfenced and has now been returned to the Government," said Mr Sloan, who spent "many hours" over the last two years trying to help councillors throughout England understand this scheme.

"We have despaired at moments over the last two years as councils across England have in many cases failed to alter their schemes in order to ensure they spent the free funding provided by central government intended to help local businesses. The funding was ring-fenced and has now been returned to the Government."

In 2017/2018 it was a similar story for both Gloucester and Tewkesbury local authorities - with the former given £201,318 and failing to hand out £99,652 by the official deadline, and the latter £191,375, and failing to give out £105,734.

During that year Cheltenham was given £270,759, and failed to deliver £34,542 by the deadline and the Forest of Dean £168,518 and failing to deliver £14,474.

However, figures this year show they appear to have revised their procedures and of the £131,511 Cheltenham received it has allocated all but £1,558 and the Forest of Dean given £81,851 and managed to allocate all but £986.

Stroud and the Cotswold district councils both understood the rules from the off.

Punchline has approached Gloucester City Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council and is awaiting a comment.

Last year Punchline work with some of local authorities who had substantial monies left to convince them they still had time to make that money available - £250,000 in total. It then helped to promote the available funds to the business community.

Read more: £250,000-plus to help Gloucestershire businesses with rate relief 

Ian Sloan worked with Retail Express and BetterRetailing on the investigation which involved scores of freedom of information requests.

Many businesses suffered an increase in their business rates following the property revaluation in April, 2017.

In its Budget in March 2017 the Government announced a variety of support businesses including the Discretionary Revaluation (2017) Rates Relief Scheme, which allocated £300 million to local councils to give away free to local businesses over a four year period.

This scheme was 'front-loaded', making £175 million available in 2017/2018 and £85 million in 2018/ 2019.

On February 22, 2018, well before the end of the financial year, Retail Express highlighted the under-allocation of the funding.

And on May 18 it updated the story on a national basis.

In October 2018, after many months of research, the Daily Mail run a full page story highlighting the very poor implementation of this scheme by many councils, and named the worst offending councils.

The work undertaken by both Bankier Sloan and Retail Express was acknowledged in the article. The story highlighted that local councils under-allocated this free funding by £17.5 million in the 2017-2018 financial year.

Read more: £220,000-plus of rate relief for Gloucestershire businesses lost

Read more: Investigation: Millions of pounds for business rate relief unspent or out of reach 

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