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Councils want reform of business rates appeal system

The Local Government Association wants the business rates appeals system reformed so councils can defend the income they’ve generated.

As part of its submission to the government's review of business rates, the LGA is calling for urgent reform of the appeals system, to “help protect vital local services supporting communities and businesses”.

The organisation says there have been a large number of cases received by the Valuation Office Agency after the government set a deadline of 1 April this year for appeals relating to the 2010 valuation to be submitted and able to be backdated.

They include an appeal by Virgin Media to merge business rate payments for its broadband fibre optic network to 68 councils across the country.

If successful, the company would pay one single rate and councils affected would have to refund five years' worth of rates – totalling about £75m.

The LGA wants councils named as interested parties on appeals in order to give them the chance to defend their income and protect communities from potentially damaging claims. It also believes that appellants should also be forced to give much clearer reasons for their appeal.

The LGA's submission also calls for councils to be devolved the power to set business rates in their local area based on a reformed property tax and retain 100% of all business rates income.

Cllr Claire Kober, chair of the LGA's Resources Board, said:  "The financial risk facing local authorities due to business rates appeals remains one of the biggest weaknesses of the current system and has the potential to damage councils' ability to improve people's quality of life, support local businesses and drive local growth.

"The government has promised to reform the appeals system in its Enterprise Bill and we look forward to seeing the details.”

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