Retailer vows court action in dispute over business rates

The boss of a department store that opened in Peterborough just nine months ago is embroiled in a fight with city council finance chiefs over a £200,000 business rates demand.

Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 5:57 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 6:55 am
Beales chief executive Tony Brown in the new store. EMN-210104-165550009

Council officials are demanding that Beales, in Westgate House, Westgate, pay business rates of £200,000 for the entire multi-storey building even though the retailer operates from just the ground floor.

Tony Brown, chief executive of Beales, says that as the company does not own the building and only has a licence to trade from the ground floor its business rates bill should come in at about £56,000.

And he has warned that the battle over the business rates demand will end up in the courts.

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Re-opening of the former Beales store at Westgate by CEO Tony Brown EMN-210104-165656009

He said: “If the council pursues us for payment for the whole store it puts a different perspective on the finances of the store.

“We’d have to seriously consider how we cope with paying rates on 75 per cent of a building that we don’t occupy.

“This has been going on since the store opened in April. Yet we are only licensed to operate from one floor.

“It is shocking. It is just extortion.

“The council is just not listening to us. We have sent copies of our licence to the council along with numerous emails and letters. We now have lawyers involved, which is a substantial cost.

“The council says it wants to promote businesses in Peterborough, yet it treats us like this.

Mr Brown added: “Basically, every pound I spend on lawyers’ letters or excess business rates is money that I can’t spend on stock or on employing people.”

A spokesperson for Peterborough City Council said: “Westgate House is listed with the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) as an entire building.

“This means that the council is required by law to charge business rates for the entire building.

“Beales has put in a proposal to the VOA to split the building.

“As soon as that happens, we will amend the business rates accordingly. If after the split, if the VOA agrees this, it turns out they have overpaid, the council will refund any overpayment.

“The decision to split the building is entirely down to the VOA, not the council.”

But Mr Brown said: “It is within the council’s gift to resolve this issue.

“This matter will be going to court. There is plenty of case law law to support our claim.”

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