Cash-strapped Sefton Council gives one charity £250,000 off its rates bill

ots-cllr simon shaw outside Healthy Planet kew southport onthespot news_0

Cash-strapped Sefton Council gives one charity £250,000 off its rates bill

An investigation by Birkdale Lib Dem Councillor Simon Shaw has revealed that Sefton Council has granted one national charity a reduction of over £250,000 on its rates bill in the last four years on the two shops it operates in Southport.

Healthy Planet is a charity operating around 30 “Books for Free” stores around the country.

In Southport they have one shop in Cambridge Walks and another in one of the large units next to Homebase at the Meols Cop Retail Park (pictured above).

Following up on concerns he first raised in November last year, in early January Cllr Shaw wrote to senior Council officers asking whether both sites meet the requirements for bona fide charitable reduced rates.  Charities, including charity shops, are entitled to a 80% reduction in their rates bill so long as they meet certain requirements. “I was staggered to be informed that £253,000 of charity rate relief has been granted by Sefton Council to Healthy Planet in just four years,” said Cllr Shaw.

Councillor Shaw, a qualified Chartered Accountant, followed up his investigations with a formal question at last Thursday’s Council Meeting addressed to the Cabinet Member for Corporate Services.

He called on Cllr Paul Tweed, Labour councillor for Litherland and the Cabinet Member concerned, to ensure that a thorough investigation is undertaken to ensure that any charitable rate relief granted to Health Planet is legitimate. Two years ago BBC Radio 5 Live conducted an investigation into the issue saying that ‘businesses with empty premises are exploiting a tax break intended for charities to avoid paying full rates’.

Their report referred to Healthy Planet stores in two other parts of the country, saying ‘Camden Council, which is responsible for collecting rates due on the property, has not granted Healthy Planet any discount on its rates’ and ‘last year Sheffield City Council made a similar decision as it says Healthy Planet was not making full use of the building it occupied.’

Full details of the Radio 5 Live report referred to by Cllr Shaw are at:

In recent weeks Cllr Shaw has contacted the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation, the Local Government Association, Sheffield City Council and the London Borough of Camden about the activities of Healthy Planet.

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