A call for councils to get their Revenues teams in order
There have been a number of headlines recently – teamed with a fair amount of public criticism on the matter – about the amount of money being written off by councils due to unpaid business rates.
The defence is that when businesses fold, councils can’t pursue the debts, but the onus is now on councils to ensure that they collect the Business Rates in an efficient and timely manner – most particularly in light of George Osborne’s new plans that by 2020 authorities will be retaining their own Business Rates for the provision of local services.
Council bosses will need to ensure that their revenues teams are well resourced in order to keep the outstanding debts as low as possible: for Council Officers to be able to fulfil their roles as tax collectors, they need to have inspectors on the ground and office-based staff who are confident of both their knowledge of the law and their ability to apply it in a fair, balanced and efficient way.
It is crucial that as the collectors of business rates, the council revenues officer apply legislation correctly and fairly across the board, as failure to do so will not only call into question the councils competence, but also the legitimacy of the entire business rate system. To be effective, councils should not only pursue outstanding business rates, but also, and within the confines of the current legislation, support businesses through the application of relevant reliefs and discounts.
My Rating colleagues and I at Harris Lamb have a good working relationship with many of our local councils, and represent many ratepayers to ensure that the charges are correctly applied to their business rates account, and have advised countless national ratepayers and made applications for various discounts on their behalf – activity that we anticipate ramping up to ensure the business communities we work with get the best possible service from their local authorities when the new plans go live.