Businesses rates now funding social care
Almost half of all businesses in Sheffield don’t pay full rates – money the council depends on to fund social care.
Council chiefs say they now rely almost completely on council tax and business rates to fund crucial services for children, pensioners, disabled and vulnerable people.
Coun Mohammed Mahroof told a scrutiny meeting that Brexit would hit businesses hard and called for the council to help.
“Quite a number of businesses are already struggling, particularly in the retail sector, and with Brexit on top of that there’s clearly going to be an issue around their financial planning and in particular business rates.
“How could the council help with concessions? Rather than us chasing businesses for rates all the time I think we should have a softer approach when they are struggling.
“There are a number of businesses on Ecclesall Road and Banner Cross closing on that stretch but it’s considered to be one of the premier retail areas.”
But Eugene Walker, executive director of resources, said government grants had been cut so much during austerity, business rates and council tax were funding services.
“There are 19,000 businesses in Sheffield and 11,000 have some form of business rate relief so half do not pay full rates.
“This is a much wider thing about the appropriateness of business rates taxation to support local authorities because we are now, like other local authorities, just about wholly reliant on council tax and business rates to support all our services and well over 50 per cent of our services are social care.
“We are talking about business taxation, which is under some stress and strain particularly around retail, to support local government and particularly the important services we provide to vulnerable people. That’s a pretty significant national debate.
“We do not have the capacity to deal with every business in difficulty and quite often that’s for wider reasons than just Brexit.
“We have a process to sort out the difference with people in genuine difficulty and people who are trying to avoid paying and we are not in a position to grant wholesale relief because of Brexit or trends in the economy that are beyond our control.”