Seven per cent of councils across England are sharing incorrect information relating to business rates relief, putting independent retailers at financial risk, betterRetailing understands.
An investigation carried out by RN found 22 out of 333 councils in England displaying outdated dates and figures, with some having no information at all on their websites.
The affected councils include Winchester City, Shropshire, Trafford, Redcar & Cleveland, Basildon, Buckinghamshire, South Kesteven, Rugby Borough, Fareham Borough, Blackburn with Darwen Borough, Cheshire West, Chiltern Area – Buckinghamshire, King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, Worcester City, Wychavon District, West Oxfordshire District and Wycombe – Buckinghamshire.
Many of the councils failed to inform ratepayers that, currently, businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or below are entitled to 100% business rates relief, with the relief decreasing on a sliding scale for rateable values between £12,000 to £15,000.
In addition, such businesses have their bill calculated using the small business rates nondomestic rates multiplier.
However, during the pandemic, chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England did not have to pay business rates for the 2020/21 tax year, marking a ‘rates holiday’, in a bid to help those hit hardest.
Bankier Sloan chartered surveyor Ian Sloan told RN: “Councils have a duty of care to ensure free funding available from central government is made easily accessible and websites should provide correct and updated information.” Sloan added store owners using the wrong information could be missing out on thousands of pounds of rates relief.
“Those businesses making decisions based on incorrect information may be struggling when they could make a claim for relief because their council website is stating they are not eligible,” he said.
“There are councils that are still way behind in putting out the right information. We have contacted them in the past, but have received no acknowledgement.”
When RN made the affected councils aware, 11 of the 22 took action to update their websites immediately, claiming they didn’t know the information was out of date.
They included Buckinghamshire, Wychavon District, Fareham Borough, Redcar & Cleveland Borough, Cherwell District Council North Oxfordshire, Bolsover District, Winchester City, Camden, South Cambridgeshire District, West Birkshire and Trafford.
RN is yet to receive a response from the remaining councils.
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