Share

Crime charity cannot appeal rate relief ruling, says lawyer

Crime charity cannot appeal rate relief ruling, says lawyer
News

Crime charity cannot appeal rate relief ruling, says lawyer

Finance | Tania Mason | 23 May 2013

A lawyer for one of the councils involved in the Public Safety Charitable Trust rate relief case has insisted the charity has no right of appeal in the case and so cannot challenge the High Court ruling.

Recently the High Court upheld an appeal by three local authorities against claims for business rate relief by the PSCT.  The charity had been leasing more than 1,500 empty commercial properties across the country, installing wifi transmitters in them and allowing Crimestoppers to broadcast crime prevention messages via Bluetooth to members of the public.

It paid a peppercorn rent and thus allowed its landlords to avoid paying empty business rates on the properties because they were being used for charitable purposes. In some cases the landlords also paid a “reverse premium” to the charity.

But the High Court ruled that the charitable use of the buildings was not enough to justify the rate relief.  Mr Justice Sales upheld two of the local authority challenges and found in favour of the third, concerning Cheshire West and Chester Council, but sent that case back to the local Magistrate for the magistrate to consider other issues relating to the main premises.

Charities lawyer Moira Protani said after the ruling that the judgment set a “dangerous precedent” by allowing local authorities to overrule decisions of trustee boards as to how to run their charities, and urged the PSCT to appeal. 

Mark Ferguson, the charity’s CEO, said he was not prepared to accept the decision and would be taking further legal advice about how to challenge it in the courts.

No right of appeal

But Virginia Lloyd, a lawyer at South Cambridgeshire District Council, told civilsociety.co.uk that there is no right of appeal.  She said: “The PSCT have no option but to accept the High Court judgment and have no right of appeal.  They are demonstrating that they accept the decision by paying the liability orders which were the subject of the High Court appeal.

“The referral back to the Magistrates Court only concerns Chester and will not be relevant to or binding on any other council. It is purely in relation to Chester’s case and given the High Court judgment it is very likely that the Council's decision to charge business rates for the main premises would be vindicated.”

Moira Protani said in response: “Two lawyers will never agree on points of law.”

Councils will demand 'hundreds of millions'

This week, the Local Government Chronicle published a story stating that councils around the country are preparing to demand “hundreds of millions of pounds” from the charity in the wake of the High Court judgment.

In response, Sir Stephen Bubb, CEO of Acevo, said: “I am concerned that this judgment may have wider implications for the sector. Charitable rate relief has enabled small charities to retain a much-needed presence on high streets and in communities. Any attempt by councils to claw back rate relief is more likely to send local charities into bankruptcy than to produce any significant sums of money for councils.

“In this case it seems unlikely that the authorities involved will recoup much money - but the charity involved will undoubtedly be forced to close. I urge the councils involved to ensure they are not jeopardising the future of a valued charity for the sake of a few shekels.”
 

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Free eNews

HMRC doubles scrutiny of charity gift aid claims following Cup Trust

22 Apr 2014

HM Revenue & Customs more than doubled the number of investigations into claims for gift aid in the...

Donations to foodbank appeal surge after critical Mail article

22 Apr 2014

The Trussell Trust’s Easter Appeal raised more than £50,000 in two days after a backlash on social...

2014 London Marathon on track to beat the £53m raised last year

18 Apr 2014

The 2014 London Marathon is on track to raise more than £53m for good causes and break the Guinness World...

Shawcross terror warning in national press

22 Apr 2014

Terrorist abuse of charities is “potentially the most deadly” problem the Charity Commission faces,...

Husband and wife jailed for three years for charity theft

22 Apr 2014

The former chair of Lincoln and District Mencap and his wife have both been jailed for fraud and theft...

Paula Sussex to be the next Charity Commission chief executive

17 Apr 2014

Paula Sussex, senior vice president, public sector of CGI, has been appointed the new chief executive...

'Technology can offer charities more than just online donations'

10 Apr 2014

Charities are focusing too much on using digital tools for fundraising instead of how technology can be...

Amnesty calls for 'full and frank disclosure' on alleged US surveillance

9 Apr 2014

Amnesty International has warned that alleged mass surveillance by the American intelligence agency NSA...

Virgin Money Giving launches app following year of growth

1 Apr 2014

Virgin Money Giving has launched an app for users after reporting that 30 per cent of traffic to its platform...

Join the discussion

 Twitter button

@CSFinance