Gwynne urges rates relief data review

By Mark Conrad | 21 November 2017

Marsham Street’s plan to name and shame councils failing to deliver business rates relief has turned sour amid claims Whitehall’s list is riddled with mistakes.

Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne has written to his government counterpart, Sajid Javid, urging a review of Whitehall data on the implementation of the three business rates relief schemes announced in March’s Budget.

Last month, amid accusations that councils had been slow to reissue 2017/18 bills following the introduction of £450m of Whitehall relief, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published a progress list.

The initial DCLG list indicated that fewer than half of councils had issued revised bills covering the main £300m discretionary rate relief package while 16 councils, including Rotherham MBC, had reportedly failed to supply data for any of the three relief schemes.

But, shortly after the list was published, Rotherham MBC contacted The MJ insisting it had supplied data to the DCLG long before the list was published.

Other councils have contacted Mr Gwynne’s office to complain that they were also named and shamed long after they supplied data.

Mr Gwynne’s letter read: ‘I have spoken to a number of council leaders from across the country and many of those I spoke to noted their concern that the figures quoted by the department did not accurately reflect the data that they had reported to your department.’

Mr Gwynne told The MJ this week: ‘From the start the way the government has managed this has been a shambles.

‘DCLG published this list to name and shame councils, but didn’t think to check that it wasn’t filled with mistakes. 

'We now need to know what steps the Government is taking to set this right.’

DCLG’s latest list shows that more than two-thirds of authorities have re-issued bills in line with the discretionary relief package.

A DCLG spokesman said: ‘Since it was first published in October we have updated the list of authorities at least once week to ensure councils are fairly represented.

‘We continue to encourage councils to contact us as soon as possible when they begin rebilling to ensure they are included in the updated list.’

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