POOLE council was set to hand tens of thousands of pounds in rate relief to national companies including cosmetics giant Lush, it has emerged.

The council will receive £322,000 from government this year to give to businesses who would otherwise face large increases in their rate bills following a revaluation.

Borough of Poole decided to distribute the money to Poole businesses whose bills are set to rise by more than eight per cent.

But a list produced by council officers included a host of companies who were not among the “local independent businesses” the council said it wanted to help, it is claimed.

Although the list remains confidential, Liberal Democrat councillor Phil Eades has said it included “a national sporting stadia company, a national chain of book sellers, a national recycling company and most shocking of all, an international cosmetics company and a property investment group owned by two Kuwaiti nationals”.

The council has since said the list is “not yet finalised” and Cllr Eades said there had been a U-turn.

He said: “They conceded that those people should never have been on the list. They removed them from the list and are going to circulate that new list among members.”

But he said the council could now afford to be more generous with other businesses, extending the help to some whose rate increase was under eight per cent.

The authority had originally planned to hand out £272,000 in relief – leaving the rest of the money in reserve in case of appeals – but the revised list would cost it only £192,000.

In a message to officers, Cllr Eades said: “This proposal is now discredited. You should bring forward revised spreadsheets offering members the opportunity to extend the assistance further to genuine Poole businesses.”

Cllr May Haines, the Conservative cabinet member who made the decision on business rates, said in a statement: “When establishing fair criteria for the allocation of this government grant, we created a list which focuses on supporting local, independent businesses, and used this list for modelling purposes.

“This list has also been used for illustrative purposes for councillors, however it is not yet finalised. Councillors and officers are working together to finalise the list.

“A further review will be carried out later in the year to determine how best to extend the scheme to ensure the whole amount for 2017/18 is distributed.”

The aid for businesses suffering sharp rate rises was announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in March, but many councils have yet to pass it on to businesses.

Bournemouth council will have £366,000 to distribute to businesses this year, but has not yet revealed how it will be targeted.