Sheffield Council spend £500,000 in business rates on empty properties in five years

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Sheffield Council has paid almost £500,000 in business rates on empty properties in the last five years, prompting criticism they are wasting taxpayers money.

The amount of cash spent in rates on empty commercial properties owned by the council has soared by 53 per cent in five years - from £78,781 in 2011/12 to £120,311 in 2015/16.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Coun Penny Baker, who asked for the figures, accused the council of 'throwing our hard earned cash down the drain'.

But Coun Ben Curran, cabinet member for finance and resources, said the figure - £495,129 - works out to less than two per cent of the authority's business rates bill.

Coun Baker said "In these difficult times Sheffield Council should be doing everything they can to stop tax payers money from being wasted so it can be spent on helping the most vulnerable in our city.

"Instead our Labour-run council's mismanagement of their property portfolio means that year on year they are throwing our hard earned cash down the drain when it could be spent on vital community services or go towards keeping Council tax down for everyone."

According to figures released by the authority, Sheffield Council's business rate spending on empty properties was: £78,781.75 in 2011/12; £91,580.93 in 20012/13; £88,303.74 in 2013/14; £116,151.12 in 2014/15; £120,311.89 in 2015/16.

Councillor Ben Curran said: “Large property owners, like the council, will never have all their buildings occupied as people move in and out of them, so it is not unusual for organisations to pay rates on vacant buildings.

"The amount we pay on this is a very small proportion of our total rate bill and works out at less than two per cent.

“The increase in costs is largely due to the increases in Government rate values. Some paid in recent years are also for buildings being used for the Sheffield Retail Quarter. We always knew they would spend some time empty and that the value of this investment will by far cover the costs.

“The council retains half of the business rates paid and reinvests this to benefit the people of Sheffield.”