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Over 250,000 English businesses summoned to court over missed business payments

A new study has estimated that more than one in seven business premises in England have been summoned to appear in court in the last year after falling behind on their business rates payments.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Over 250,000 English businesses summoned to court over missed business payments

A new study has estimated that more than one in seven business premises in England have been summoned to appear in court in the last year after falling behind on their business rates payments.

Carried out on behalf of the Grimsey Review through Freedom of Information Requests to 90 local authorities, the research estimates that 262,086 business premises were summoned in 2012. Of those businesses, 131,574 would have been referred to bailiffs for collection.

The use of bailiffs by councils to collect business rates has increased by 18.32% since 2010/11.

The research covers 40% of the rating list and accounts for all sectors. However Paul Turner Mitchell, who collated the findings, said the retail sector was arguably the worst hit.

“Year after year we’re seeing big rates rises,” the retail campaigner said. “We’ve had two recessions and virtually no growth in the last five years. Yet the Government’s medicine to support businesses has been a £2billion rise in business rates in the last two years. This does not make sense. We need to be supported not seen as just a cash cow.

“While ministers boast about freezing council tax to support families they’ve done nothing to support the lifeblood of our economy and kept piling on taxes for small businesses.”

With some local authorities such as Hyndburn, Liverpool and Slough summoning more than a quarter of business premises to appear before Court because of delays on business rates payments, retail veteran Bill Grimsey said there was a growing consensus that this was an unfair tax.

“It’s clear to me that a root and branch reform is needed to make business rates fair and equitable and less of a burden on retailers as a whole,” he said. “This is what my review will be looking at and we’re working hard to develop alternatives.”

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