We have more from the Directorate of Very Bad News at Shropshire Council. The council is planning to cancel all discretionary business rate relief for charities, sports clubs, youth clubs and a lot of other social enterprises across the county. In Ludlow, and voluntary and social enterprises could face an annual bill of more than £20,000 from next April.
This is nothing other than a tax on our volunteer community. It is a disgusting raid on the funding of good causes.
Ludlow is a town of volunteers. Many people reading this blog raise money in our charity shops. You serve tea and cake in the Working Together café. You steward at Ludlow Assembly Rooms. But in the future, you will be working to raise money for Shropshire Council first and your charity second.
My provisional analysis suggests that Ludlow social and charity enterprises will face a bill of more than £20,000 a year from next April, affecting everyone from the Scouts to the Assembly Rooms.
Charity shops receive 80% business rate relief on the orders of central government. Shropshire Council provides an extra 20% relief taking the total business rate bill to zero. But if the secret Shropshire Council policy goes through from next April, the 20% local relief will be scrapped. My back of envelope calculation is that charity shops in our town will need to pay around £9,000 a year in business rates they don’t currently pay. That’s money than will be filched from volunteer time and public donations that are intended to help those in need and vulnerable in our society.
Shropshire Council is planning to take money from people that are striding to make our county and society work better. At the same time, it is cutting services and support for our communities almost every day. I am appalled.
Let’s put this data in perspective. Last month, Shropshire Council spent around £20,000 taking two councillors and one staff member to Cannes for a property exhibition. Think of it. You put in four hours a week in a charity shop and it will help pay for a hotel room in Cannes.
Under the threatened changes, Ludlow Assembly Rooms could face a bill of up to £8,000 a year.
There may be other Ludlow business rate bills that I can’t identify from the data I have to hand.
This proposed tax on worthy causes is not yet Shropshire Council policy. It has only been the subject of discussions in secret between finance officers and council leaders.
The legal niceties, however, mean that officers have been forced to write to the charitable and social enterprises that could be hammered by this change to give them notice (the letter). The political and executive leadership of Shropshire Council is meanwhile keeping mufti. (There is no one in Shirehall to answer questions this week.)
The policy decision to increase taxes on charities and good causes will be made on 2 May by the council’s cabinet. Most cabinet papers are not usually made available until a few days before the meeting. That means we will not know the details of this scurrilous and underhand tax on our volunteer community until the last moment.
Shropshire Council is planning a raid on the tills of charity shops and the fundraising efforts of scouting groups. It is immoral. But it is legal. That means we can expect the council cabinet to drive it through.
If this policy is implemented, it will be at the expense of the social fabric of this county. That won’t stop it going through. The mantra in Shropshire Council at the moment is that everyone should share the burden of expenditure cuts, including the poor.
Yet we live in an era where more social support and essential services are expected to be delivered by charities, communities and volunteers. I think it is obscene beyond belief that Shropshire Council should propose a tax on the efforts of volunteers that work for our community when it is withdrawing its support for the community left, right and centre. We will oppose this policy when it is considered by cabinet on 2 May.