Newcastle’s MP slams Council over secret business rate write-offs – for the fifth year in a row…

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23 Mar 2011

Newcastle’s Labour MP has criticised the Borough Council and its outgoing leader Simon Tagg over secretly writing off business rates, yet again, of pub owners whose companies serially collapse year after year, leaving creditors in the lurch.

Behind closed doors, the Borough’s Cabinet this morning wrote off a total of £355,000 in debts, most unpaid business rates by companies which have gone bust.

Over £30,000 was in respect of connected companies which ran The Albion Inn and Ikon Café Bar in Newcastle. This is the sixth time in seven years that firms running the Albion have collapsed and had their rates forgiven, with no publicity, by the Council.
‘Publicans and traders in the town, who pay their dues, are seething once again about this happening. It’s unfair on the vast majority of people who pay their bills and not ‘naming and shaming’ the culprits does nothing to stamp this practice out,’ Mr Farrelly said.

‘Sadly, this is the fifth time in five years of his leadership that I have had to write to Mr Tagg over this, but nothing has changed. This level of secrecy should have no place at our Council. Hopefully after he finally moves on in May, a new leader and Cabinet will have the courage to take a stand against this practice in the future.’

In the public interest, Mr Farrelly has again tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in Parliament, highlighting the Council’s action - and giving the media the protection of parliamentary privilege in reporting facts the Council chooses to conceal.

The full text of the EDM (Hansard no. 1643) is below:

Business rates, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and Marstons Brewery

That this House wishes to record its disappointment at the conduct of the Cabinet of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council in once again planning to write off, behind closed doors, business rates owed by public houses whose operating companies serially go bust and whose owners perennially hide  behind the cloak of limited liability; considers that the Council has again failed to show proper civic leadership or best practice by not publicising the names of serial offenders; notes that £25,094 and £7,645 to be written off now in respect of Black Night Newcastle Ltd (the Albion Inn) and T2i Ltd (Ikon Café Bar) bring to £123,867 the unpaid business rates owed by establishments connected to former Conservative Borough Councillor Peter Whieldon, his former partner Anthony James and their business associates; notes further that this is sixth time with six defunct companies over the last seven years that the Council is secretly writing off business rates at The Albion Inn; notes that this pub was finally repossessed last year by its freehold owner Marstons, but the brewery has again failed to vet the ownership of the latest, defunct operating company; and notes further that the brewery’s stance – along with Council failure to ‘name and shame’ such owners - does nothing to deter copycat operations, nor to assist decent, honest publicans, who pay their dues, to compete on a level playing field in Newcastle, North Staffordshire and up and down the land.