NEARLY £8m of business rates has been left uncollected since BCP Council formed in April 2019, information obtained by the Echo shows. 

Last year, BCP Council took in £129m in business rates across the three towns. Comparatively, this was down £10m from £139m pre-pandemic in 2019/20. 

However, the total amount outstanding since April 2019 is £7.935m, including £2.815m last year and £1.072m in 2019/2020. 

But despite the gap, this is not holding back the council on its day-to-day duties as the amounts outstanding are within the expectations for rates collection, the authority said. 

Bournemouth Echo: Christchurch high streetChristchurch high street

The outstanding figure equates to 1.3 per cent of £592,325,000 collected over the past five years. 

The figures, all obtained via BCP Council and a Freedom of Information request, shows in Bournemouth there are 557 businesses outstanding to pay their rates from last financial year. 

Bournemouth’s outstanding business rates debts since 2019 are £5.105m.

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Cabinet member for finance Mike Cox said BCP Council’s business rate collection has improved over the past three years. 

And the numbers back it up: in 2020/21, collection rates were at 90.67 per cent, the following year was 95.85 per cent, 2022/23 was 96.4 per cent and last financial year was 97.6 per cent. 

Bournemouth Echo: Cabinet member for finance Mike CoxCabinet member for finance Mike Cox (Image: BCP Council)

Cllr Cox said: “There is a dedicated ‘collection team’ for business rates behind this trend. This team review every case and where there are arrears, take steps to recover monies due. This can be a simple reminder or engagement of enforcement agents. 

“We aim to support our businesses and in turn help to maintain local services and would encourage anyone having problems paying to contact our team who will be able to provide help and support.”

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Collection rates fell “dramatically” during Covid, BCP Council said, and the courts service suffered from pandemic related delays, meaning enforcement on non-payment was impacted. 

A spokesman for the authority added: “Additionally, many local authorities temporarily paused or reduced recovery or enforcement action in 2020/21 and were unable to get time in court due to court closures.

Bournemouth Echo: Poole high streetPoole high street

“Authorities reported this has affected both in-year collection rates and their collection of arrears in 2020/21.

“For 2021/22, the resumption of court services and recovery action was slow to resume and has continued to impact collection rates.” 

As of the end of March, there were 7,861 businesses liable to pay rates to the council. The latest Office for National Statistics figures show around 1,935 businesses in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole ceased trading in 2022 – up from 1,635 the year before. 

By the end of 2024/25, BCP Council is hoping to bring the percentage of business rates collected up further to 97.9 per cent.