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Non-Domestic Rates: Ports

Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 2 March 2010, Official Report, column 1152W, on non-domestic rates: ports, what assessment has been made of the effect of the ending of prescription of rating (a) on the work of the Valuation Office Agency, (b) businesses within the prescribed ports and (c) the system of rating businesses separately. (321733)

There has been no assessment made of the effect of the ending of prescribed rating on the work of the Valuation Office Agency. The impact on businesses occupying properties subject to prescribed rating, like the port authorities, was that their rateable value was ascertained by the same rules of assessment that apply to all other non-domestic properties instead of by a prescribed formula.

The ending of prescribed rating did not affect decisions on whether or not property occupied by other businesses within ports should be assessed separately for non-domestic rates. The principles concerning separate rateability where there is “exclusive occupation” and “paramount control” are long established. The leading case on the subject is a House of Lords decision from as far back as 1936—Westminster Council v. Southern Railway Company and W.H. Smith and Son.

The review of ports by the Valuation Office Agency was done to ensure that all individual business properties within and outside ports are rated fairly and that the burden of contributions to funding local government is shared equitably amongst businesses around the country.

The Government have listened to the concerns of businesses with significant and unexpected backdated bills, including some businesses within ports. It has legislated to enable such bills to be repaid over an unprecedented eight years rather than in a single instalment, helping affected businesses to manage the impact on their cash flows during the downturn by reducing the amount they are required to pay now by 87.5 per cent.

As at October 8 2009, local authorities have reported that ratepayers occupying 221 properties within ports had fully discharged their backdated liability and ratepayers occupying a further 200 business properties within ports had been granted a schedule of payments.