Bailiffs sent in to almost 250 Forest of Dean firms to chase business rates
BAILIFFS were called to nearly 250 Forest of Dean companies to collect unpaid business rates in the last financial year.
The district council instructed debt collectors to visit 241 Dean firms in 2012/13 – a huge rise from only 14 businesses the year before.
The amount of business rates debt the council chased in 2012/13 had also more than tripled from the previous year to £373,913.34.
It has led to accusations from some company bosses that the rates are crippling industry and calls for more support have been issued.
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Don Burgess, who runs the Freeminer Brewery in Cinderford and is chairman of the Forest branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "I think it's a sad reflection of the state of the economy, clearly a lot of businesses are struggling.
"It's disappointing that the council sees fit to call bailiffs on them rather than sitting down, listening and negotiating about what can be done."
The council collects about £11.5million in business rates a year – making the figure for uncollected cash relatively small in comparison, said deputy leader Councillor Brian Robinson.
Before April, councils merely ran the collection service, sending all the business rates money from their areas to central Government, which then redistributed it nationally.
However, as of this year, local authorities retain about 25 per cent of the cash.
A spokesman for the council said they had switched to a new system for collecting council tax and business rates and this, allied with the state of the economy, was responsible for the increased numbers.
"We only call bailiffs as a last resort," she said.
"We don't want to make lives difficult for businesses, we can always work out a payment plan with those who have fallen on hard times."
Bailiffs are called, she said, only after reminders, a court summons and a collection order have been made.