St Albans businesses still waiting for planned rates reduction

St Albans businesses still waiting for planned rates reduction

St Albans businesses still waiting for planned rates reduction

First published in News St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A St Albans shop owner expecting a £1,000 reduction in his business rates is fuming after the district council "messed up" his bills.

Paul Hargreaves, Mail Boxes etc store manager, was expecting to receive reduced business rates when he opened his bills on Monday morning, since Chancellor George Osborne's announced a £1,000 cut for small shops in December.

However St Albans District Council have "still managed to get it wrong despite having six months to reduce the rates".

Mr Hargreaves explained: "I opened the bill this morning and noticed they hadn’t added the £1,000 reduction that we have been looking forward to for months.

"It is really annoying and very frustrating that they have managed to get it wrong.

"Business rates have always been an issue for us. This discount was something we were looking forward to because it is important to us and the council have completely messed it up.

"Business rates in the UK are the highest of the Western world.  They are a very big overhead for shop owners apart from rent."

After receiving the letter Mr Hargreaves immediately contacted the council, who admitted the mistake and apologised.

However the shop owner says he will now have to wait until April to find out how much money he will be paying. Mr Hargreaves has been campaigning for reduced business rates since he began at the Hollywell Hill store in 2003.

He said: "They have told us they will resend bills at the beginning of April. However we have a direct debit account and we’re not even sure what amount they will be taking.

"The Chancellor confirmed cuts around six months ago and the council have still managed to get it wrong.

"This is on top of putting up car parking charges."

He added: "We are quite fuming. Business rates are a lot of money, but we don’t really get a lot back. Bin collections and a parking voucher are not included in this price and there isn’t a local vote."

Colm O’Callaghan, head of finance at the council, apologised and said there would not be additional costs.

He said: "We have been waiting since the legislation was passed for our software supplier to make available the relevant software update for our billing system so that we can automatically award this discount to qualifying businesses. We, along with other councils, have still to receive this software update. Unfortunately, it was not possible to manually amend business rate bills for businesses qualifying for the relief in time for when all the annual business rate bills were issued on March 13.

"We therefore included a note on the back of bills explaining that businesses qualifying for the relief will be issued with revised bills shortly. We are writing to qualifying businesses to apologise for this administrative delay in awarding the business rate relief and wish to reassure them that there will not be any additional costs as a consequence.

"In the interim, we will not be collecting any payments by direct debit on April 1 from businesses qualifying for the relief. However, if qualifying businesses paying by direct debit prefer, we can amend their instalment for April 1 to the level they would pay when the relief is awarded."

Business wishing to amend their direct debit to take affect from April 1 should contact 01727 819270 or 01727 814604.

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