More than £19K tax relief for struggling companies unspent by York council

More than £19,000 of government money to help struggling York companies with their business rates went unspent in the past two years.

City of York Council has been given £1,170,561 by the government since 2017 to help businesses affected by a rise in rates in 2017.

Research by chartered surveyors Bankier Sloan and Retail Express found the council handed out almost all of the cash.

By the end of 2017/18, £3,042 was left unspent and at the end of the 2018/19 financial year £16,322 that could have gone to help businesses with their bills had not been handed out.

The money is sent back to government if it is not used.

Small underspend

City of York Council HQ. Photograph: YorkMix
But a council spokesman said all of the money is earmarked for eligible businesses – but circumstances can change and mean a company no longer qualifies for the cash.

David Walker, head of customer and exchequer services at the council, said:

  • York allocates 100 per cent of each year’s funding to eligible businesses at the start of each financial year.

    Our small underspend in comparison to other local authorities arose from changes during the year such as businesses closing or their rateable value changing.

York sent 1.65 per cent of the money its was given by central government for the scheme back.

In some parts of the country, up to 10 per cent of the money handed out by the government was unspent on business rate relief – while other authorities gave more money out to businesses than they received from government.

Sudden increase

Following the revaluation of business rates in 2017, some companies suffered a sudden increase in their bills.

In response the government announced a £300m relief scheme over four years to help small businesses hit by the change.

As part of the plans, funding went to local authorities to help individual hard cases in their area and businesses are invited to apply for rates relief.

In March a council report said York is second only to Cambridge in terms of a low number of empty shops in the city centre, adding that empty shops often switch to leisure and hospitality uses, reflecting “the increasing popularity of York as a retail and leisure destination”.