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Myths shattered: Licensing, council tax, business rates - THE TRUTH

Many myths surround the often prickly subjects of licensing to sell alcohol and payment of business rates and council tax.

So far as licensing establishments for the sale of alcohol is concerned, Boston Borough Council is required to follow legislation which applies nationally. The council has a licensing policy, but it is not permitted within that policy to say who it will and won't give a licence to.

There is no requirement in legislation to speak English to obtain a licence. The qualification necessary to obtain a personal licence can be delivered in any language; it is not a requirement of the legislation that the person obtaining the qualification must do so in any particular language.

Where there are no objections to an application for a licence the licensing officers have no discretion over whether or not to grant a licence. The licence must be granted and this is a requirement of the legislation.

Where there are objections, the decision of whether or not to grant a licence is made by a sub-committee of three members of the licensing committee. Decisions, where there have been objections, are not made at officer level.

Where there are objections there has to be evidence that it would be appropriate for the promotion of the licensing objectives to refuse a licence. The elected members cannot refuse on the grounds that the shop is to be run by a person whose first language is not English, that there are already lots of similar shops, that it may sell counterfeit alcohol or that there has been a premises licence held at the same premises previously by a different person and that licence was revoked.

The council's licensing register provides details of all licence holders and designated premises supervisors and is a public record. Any member of the public is welcome to come and look at the register at any time during our office hours.

Recent social media chatter that licences have not been revoked for sale of non-duty paid alcohol is incorrect.  Of the five that were revoked in 2011 some were revoked for the sale of counterfeit and non-duty paid goods, others were for non-duty paid goods only.

The licences can only be revoked where an application for review is received. If non-duty paid alcohol is found at a premises and no review application is submitted, the licensing authority cannot revoke that licence. On each occasion an application for review has been received for non-duty paid alcohol the sub-committee has either suspended or revoked the licence.  In accordance with the legislation, revocation of a licence is not a decision which can be made at officer level.

Now to council tax and business rates: There are no nationality-based exemptions or reductions for business rates and council tax - both have to be paid irrespective of who the individual is or where they come from.

There are exemptions and reductions for business rates - for instance, business properties with a rateable value below £6,000 do not have to pay business rates at all - and all business owners can receive these if they are eligible, regardless of nationality. All business owners are treated in the same way.

It is not true that shops which operate for a short time only do not have to pay business tax. Opening, closing and opening again in a new location is not a way of avoiding paying, whoever you are.

Business rates are set by the Valuation Officer, completely independent of Boston Borough Council, and are based on the annual rental value of the property on the open market. Boston Borough Council collects business rates on behalf of the Government, and hands the whole lot over. Some of it is returned as part of the annual rate support grant which all councils receive from Government to help run services.

All residential properties are eligible to pay council tax, including properties where there is shared occupation (HMOs - homes of multiple occupation) irrespective of who lives in them or where they come from. There are exemptions and reductions according to the circumstances of the individuals living in those properties - single people living alone, those with no income or limited income, for example. And all can be eligible for these, irrespective of nationality.

Why should you not try to dodge paying any business rates or council tax which you are eligible to pay? Because it's the law, and because, in a civilised society, all benefit at some time and at some level from the many services it pays to provide.

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