July 22 2014 Latest news:
Friday, April 25, 2014
Camden Council issued a court summons to Home Secretary Theresa May as it chased an unpaid rates bill from the government agency that scrutinises police.
Officers sent a summons to the cabinet minister over tens of thousands of pounds in business rates that were not paid by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
The IPCC, which is part of the Home Office and based in Holborn, then settled the bill just days before it was due to face the council at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Thursday last week.
The episode was branded a “silly” waste of taxpayers’ money by a campaigner who visited Downing Street to lobby the Prime Minister for an overhaul of the rates system.
Jessica Learmond-Criqui, of the Hampstead Shops Campaign, who led a delegation of traders demanding a rates cut for small businesses, said it showed just how confused the current system is.
She argued that public bodies should not be wasting taxpayers’ money chasing after funds from government institutions that will just be fed back into the public purse.
Ms Learmond-Criqui, a solicitor of Redington Road, Hampstead, said: “I’m surprised to hear the IPCC pays business rates at all.
“It seems odd that business rates are charged to a government department for it to be collected by another government department. That’s a lot of admin costs and unnecessary work – surely much better use could have been made of taxpayers’ money?”
Most of the rates money collected by Camden Council goes to central government, although local authorities can now keep a proportion. Public bodies are not exempt from payment.
A spokesman for the police watchdog insisted that the wrangle was not a dispute but just a “misunderstanding” that was cleared up with a few phone calls, although she did not explain why a summons was issued.
She said: “The IPCC initially believed that it was not liable to pay business rates to Camden Council for vacant office space in its High Holborn building. However, after further examination of the issue, the IPCC agreed to pay the outstanding rates.”
The council was seeking a liability order from the court, which would have forced the IPCC to pay up.
A council spokesman said: “Camden Council has a duty to collect business rates. We take the same even handed approach to collection whether they are small businesses or the Home Office.”