Empty units cost council £199,000

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A district council has written off business rates of £101,695.39 and empty business units and shops are costing it £199,000.

Forest Heath District Council currently has 10 vacant business units as well as a number of empty town centre units which has led to a shortfall in income as well as the added expenditure of business rates, which must be paid by the council if the units are unoccupied.

Forest Heath District Council leader James Waters said: “I have asked for a full review of all business units. It’s been long overdue.”

Cllr Waters said the council would be looking to see if there was demand for the units, if there are changes that could be made to make them more desirable, or if the council should look to sell the empty units.

As of next year, the council will be more financially reliant on the amount it collects in business rates due to changes in Government policy, which will see it keep a percentage of what it collects.

The Government has predicted the council will retain a base rate of £1,751,000, which has been earmarked to plug a reduction in central government funding.

Forest Heath District Council hopes through economic growth to retain £93,000 more than government predictions, as well as receiving £42,000 from Suffolk wide pool.

A council spokesman said: “Our target is to collect 100 per cent of business rates and, as of March 1, we have collected 98.24 per cent.

“We use all the recovery avenues available through legislation – including reminders, final notices, insolvency action, and very occasionally bailiffs.

“Just as importantly, we work with businesses who tell us they are experiencing difficulties and with support organisations that can provide them with practical advice.”

The £101,695.39 of business rates written off dated from 2007 to 2013.

Cllr Waters said: “We do not want it to get in this state again. We need to be on the ball. If there’s a problem people need to talk to us.”