Coun­cil owed £3m in un­paid busi­ness rates

Fig­ures prompt Labour call for lo­cal author­ity to do more to re­coup the debt

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - STe­fan morkis smorkis@the­courier.co.uk

“I think that hear­ing the level of debt that is out­stand­ing, the coun­cil needs to ac­cel­er­ate in some way its col­lec­tion and it needs to look at how best to achieve that. COUN­CIL­LOR KEVIN KEENAN

Cash-strapped Dundee City Coun­cil is owed more than £3 mil­lion in un­paid busi­ness rates dat­ing back over the last 20 years.

The fig­ures have prompted Labour group leader Coun­cil­lor Kevin Keenan to in­tro­duce an “ac­cel­er­ated” re­cov­ery pro­gramme to re­coup the debt to help fund vi­tal coun­cil ser­vices.

Fig­ures re­leased in re­sponse to a free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest re­vealed the to­tal ar­rears for un­paid non-do­mes­tic rates be­tween 1998 and 2017 was £3,373,570.93.

Two busi­nesses have out­stand­ing debts of more than £125,000.

A night­club owes £129,958 and a shop £125,025.

Mr Kevin Keenan said the lo­cal author­ity needs to do more to re­cover the out­stand­ing sums.

He said: “Ev­ery ef­fort needs to be made to re­cover the money owed to the coun­cil, es­pe­cially when it is look­ing at an­other year with £16m of cuts to get to the stage of a bal­anced bud­get, so ar­eas like chil­dren’s ser­vices can get the level of fund­ing they need.

“I think that hear­ing the level of debt that is out­stand­ing, the coun­cil needs to ac­cel­er­ate in some way its col­lec­tion and it needs to look at how best to achieve that.”

Colin Bor­land from the Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses said: “Busi­nesses should of course pay monies that are law­fully owed.

“But, sadly, in these tough times, some will go un­der and cred­i­tors – from the coun­cil to sup­pli­ers – can find it hard to re­cover what they’re due.

“If busi­nesses are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­cul­ties with their bills, we would al­ways urge them to speak to the coun­cil be­fore things get out of hand.”

He added: “Many small busi­nesses don’t pay rates as they re­ceive 100% re­lief. But, for those who do, the sys­tem con­tin­ues to cause headaches – it’s still re­ally hard to un­der­stand and nav­i­gate the sys­tem with­out pro­fes­sional help.

“How­ever, if the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment passes its Bud­get, not only will many small busi­nesses con­tinue to pay noth­ing thanks to the Small Busi­ness Bonus Scheme, those who in­vest in their prop­er­ties will be able to re­coup some of their costs be­fore be­ing hit with a big­ger bill.”

A spokes­woman for Dundee City Coun­cil said: “The coun­cil takes the is­sue of debt re­cov­ery very se­ri­ously.

“We un­der­stand that busi­nesses can strug­gle to pay their non-do­mes­tic rates, which is why we en­gage with busi­nesses early to help those that are strug­gling to pay.

“From 1998 to the present, 0.3% of non-do­mes­tic rates re­mains out­stand­ing and we make ev­ery ef­fort to re­cover all money that is owed, but in some cir­cum­stances, such as the clo­sure of a busi­ness, it is not al­ways pos­si­ble to do so.”

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