28 August 2012

S49 Relief - Businesses, listen up

Do you fancy one of these for relief? and the pillow!
as well as the book obviously.

As little known as this huge pillow is S49 Local Government Finance Act 1988 which says:

A billing authority (e.g. Barnet Council) may....

reduce any amount a person may be liable to pay...........

remit (write-off) payment of the whole of any amount a person would otherwise be liable to pay.......

an authority may not act under this section unless it is satisfied that

the ratepayer would sustain hardship if the authority did not do so, and

is reasonable for the authority to do so, having regard to the interests of persons liable to pay council tax set by it (not quite sure why the act says "council tax" as it is really referring to NNDR - national non domestic rates or business rates as they are often known, details details) 

So this is discretionary relief and you are entirely at the mercy of Barnet Council. Has Barnet Council shown much mercy in the last 5 years? No, none at all as thanks to Freedom of Information Mr Mustard has established that in the last 5 years Barnet Council has granted absolutely no relief under S49 to any business whatsoever.

Now it beggars belief that there wasn't a single business in the last 5 years that wasn't finding trade hard due to the recession and competition from the world wide web.

Of course one reason may be that Barnet Council don't advertise this relief is  perhaps because central government only reimburse 75% of it so that any relief they grant would partly come out of their coffers which they have got nailed up tight.

Perish the thought that businesses within the borough of Barnet have seen their trade go down by a third and been unable for the first time since they opened their shop many moons ago to pay their business rates and thus be a hardship case but strange as it may seen you can apply to Barnet Council for some of your losses back, such poignancy if they agree, wouldn't you say?

Now sadly as Mr Mustard can't find an application form on the website (it being harder to navigate than a rudderless ship, actually there are similarities with the council there) then you will either have to telephone 020 8359 2735  or send an email to: businessrates@barnet.gov.uk and ask how you should apply. Hopefully there will be an old form sitting in the back of a filing cabinet somewhere and it can be dusted off and turned into a pdf and sent to you (do please forward it to mrmustard@zoho.com so that others may benefit) and then you can demonstrate what a parlous state your finances are in and plead for financial relief (don't mention the parking problem as it will annoy the council and you don't want to do that, you want their sympathy about this mysterious loss in trade). Do please let Mr Mustard know how you get on. Please also tell any other shopkeepers in your High St who might be struggling about this opportunity. If the council refuse, complain to your local councillor and your MP.

Whilst you are about it there are some other reliefs mentioned on the business rates section of the council website to do with unoccupied property, charities and very small business which may be of interest to you.

If you don't ask you don't get.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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