Bailiffs called in as £2million owed in business rates in Gloucester and Stroud
HARD-HIT firms are being targeted by council-appointed bailiffs in a bid to claw back almost £2million of unpaid business rates.
Business are struggling to stump up the money for the rates, which local councils collect on the Government's behalf.
Some 217 firms in Gloucester and 51 in Stroud had the threat of bailiffs turning up at the doors in the last financial year.
Those numbers leapt dramatically from 132 and 32 respectively in the 2008/09 financial year.
The total unpaid business rates in Gloucester now stands at £1,077,658 compared to just £71,660 in 2007/08.
That figure is now £858,031 in Stroud compared to £164,747 in 2007/08.
Business rates are payable by commercial properties and are set by multiplying the rateable value of a property by the business rate multiplier, a figure set by the Government.
Businessman Mark Owen, chairman of the Gloucester branch of the Federation of Small Businesses and owner of Moose Marketing, said: "It is all about cashflow. There is not enough lending within the banks in particular to industries such as hotels, catering and construction.
"We are also seeing later and later payments for services. It's gone from your traditional 90 days up to 180 days.
"Businesses look healthy but they are lacking the cash."
Business owners in the city said those struggling should seek help.
Denise Kirby, owner of Poppy & Harry's in Westgate Street, said: "It seems the council on one hand are giving incentive for people to start a business and then on the other hand they are taking.
"I have personally never had a problem with my business rates and the lady at the council is always very helpful but the rates generally are ridiculous. But I have heard it is a central Government thing not a local Government."
While the rates firms pay vary dramatically, Denise said hers come in at about £900 a month, which are helped by a grant from the council.
Kate Burreddu, assistant manager of The Bridal Sale Shop, in Northgate Street, said: "We are generally doing well at the moment but those who are struggling should get some help from the council."
Finance chiefs said that help is at hand.
Gloucester city councillor Fred Wood, cabinet member for performance and resources, said: "As a city we are acutely aware of the need to support business and the local economy and have a great many measures in place to do just this. However business rates are something that we are obliged to collect on behalf of the Government."
A spokesman for Stroud District Council said: "The increase in arrears owing is due to the state of the economy.
"Empty properties, which are eligible for business rates make up a large chunk of the figures. Additionally, the government allowed businesses to defer some of their rate payments which contributes to the figures. One of our unpopular roles is to collect such taxes, but we have a duty to do so, however we do offer help to businesses where we can."