Lobbying by West Suffolk to stop people who have not paid their business rates getting permission to open or renew a licensed premises, could soon become law.
Under current law, a licensing authority is not able to take into account whether a person looking to open a new business, is up to date with paying their rates.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Forest Heath District Council have been aware in the past of occasions where they had little choice but to grant a licensing application, even though they were aware that the applicant owed a substantial amount on business rates dating back several years.
That prompted the two councils to lobby the Government for a change to the licensing laws.
Now St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath have gained the backing of the Local Government Association which is seeking the changes as part of its submission to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne for inclusion in his Autumn Statement next Wednesday 3 December.
Cllr David Ray, St Edmundsbury Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance said: “Businesses want a level playing field and it angers both the council, and the hardworking honest folk, when they see someone who has not been paying their rates, simply allowed to open up a new business.
“It is a ludicrous situation but one where our hands have been tied. We want our local businesses to know that we are all bearing our share of the cost, and paying our business rates and contributing to the ongoing prosperity of this wonderful part of Suffolk in which we live and work.
“We have been lobbying for a change and are very pleased to have the backing of the LGA.”
Cllr Stephen Edwards, Forest Heath Cabinet Member for Resources, Governance and Performance said: “Many councils will have come across these cynical business men and women who pay all of their bills apart from their business rates because they know they will still get their licence.
“It is unfair on the rest of us who pay our rates, knowing that the money will be reinvested back into the area for the benefit of us all. We now wait in hope of a satisfactory announcement by the Chancellor on 3 December.”
A spokesman for the LGA said: “We are asking for the Government to expressly allow councils to take into account whether a business is up to date with its business rates when assessing licensing applications. This would help make sure that all businesses bear their share of responsibility towards the general prosperity of the local area.”
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