Companies in Walsall owe over £2 million in unpaid business rates while the council makes cuts in public services and care for vulnerable people, claim Walsall’s Labour Group.
Labour councillors reckon that during 2012-13 firms left the town hall coffers short by £2,346,833 as the local authority struggles with the deepest Government enforced cutbacks in its history.
Labour group leader, Councillor Tim Oliver, said if the council fails to collect the shortfall residents will have to bear the cost.
Explaining that as of April 1st authorities will retain a proportion on the business rates collected on behalf of the Government, he added: “The problem is that any shortfall in the future will now be shared between the government and the council. On last year’s figures, we estimated that will cost an additional £800,000 – either in further cuts to services or increased council tax.”
Darlaston South Councillor, Doug James, who exposed the amount of uncollected non-domestic rates said it dwarfed the council’s figures for confirmed benefit fraud.
He said: “This is not a question of doing one thing or the other. We have to ensure fraud is rooted out but we also have to ensure companies pay for the services they receive. Otherwise, residents and companies who do pay will have to make up the difference.”
“Despite the best efforts of staff, the council has failed to collect nearly £2.5 million during 2012-13. That’s enough to cover the cut in social services which cares for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in the borough.
“Nationally the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government is hitting the poorest families in society with welfare cuts such as the bedroom tax, while giving millionaires tax breaks.
“Locally, the council’s Tory/Lib Dem leadership is doing the same thing. Prioritising cuts in support for the most vulnerable while failing to collect the cash that could help those very same people.
“Walsall Council needs a growth plan for local business but, we must ensure businesses are paying their fair share for the services they receive”