Westminster Council has rejected calls for local charities to retain a 20% discretionary rate relief until the next General Election.
Councillor Barrie Taylor, Deputy Leader of Westminster’s Labour Group, urged Councillor Melvyn Caplan, Cabinet member for Finance & Customer Services, to assist local charities by using the Council’s powers to allow up to 70 charitable organisations this year to retain their discretionary 20% rate relief on their business rates.
Councillor Caplan dismissed Cllr Taylor’s argument that such a decision would merely be following the Council’s current policy line in freezing Council tax levels.
The Council is obliged to review their discretionary rate relief (DNNR) for local charities and this year 70 organisations are being reviewed. Some cases have already been heard by a Panel of elected members who recommend any changes to Cllr Caplan, who has the last say. Nearly all of those being considered currently receive the maximum 20% relief. Age Concern, Fourth Feathers, Paddington Arts and Paddington Development Trust being amongst those organisations. It is understood that, of those already reviewed, their rate relief has been halved.
Councillor Barrie Taylor had this to say about the implications for local groups;
“In these times of brutal cuts by the Conservatives (e.g. £350,000 Arts and Culture reduced to zero next year) this additional burden amounts to a minimum of £3-£4K a year and will produce a ‘sink or swim’ position for many local charities. We imagine that it is not the intention of Westminster to force organisations out of business and our call for a freeze on the current levels of discretionary relief is no different to the Councils policy to freeze Council Tax levels.”
Charitable organisations will usually receive 80% NNDR Mandatory rate relief. The organisations can additionally apply for NNDR Discretionary Rate Relief to meet some or all of the remaining 20% of their Business Rate (NNDR) liability. Non-Profit making organisations which do not qualify for NNDR Mandatory rate relief can also apply for up to 100% NNDR Discretionary rate relief.
Most charities in Westminster currently receive the added 20% discretionary relief.