LibDems call for an enquiry into poster site rate avoidance

Poster companies have been accused of avoiding paying the Government millions of pounds worth of business rates on their sites.

Poster companies have been accused of avoiding paying the

Government millions of pounds worth of business rates on their

sites.



The Liberal Democrats have backed claims that the Government’s Valuation

Office is dragging its feet over updating its list of hoardings and

bus-shelter sites.



Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, expressed

concern after a crackdown in Bristol discovered more than 400

unregistered poster sites. The number on the local list doubled after

the review. ’If there is a similar problem occurring around the country,

then we are talking about potentially large amounts of revenue,’ a

Liberal Democrat source said.



Bruce has tabled Commons questions to Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of

the Exchequer, and John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, in an

attempt to find out the level of avoidance of business rates on outdoor

sites.



The Liberal Democrats want the Government to consider increasing staff

numbers at the Valuation Office to update lists more quickly. They argue

the extra staff costs could be outweighed by the extra revenue to local

authorities, bringing an overall saving in public spending.



Prescott’s Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions said

it had no information on which to estimate the level of avoidance.



But the Valuation Office said there was no evidence to support Bruce’s

fears that up to pounds 14 million of revenue may be lost annually. It

said that between April and October last year, the number of advertising

sites in England and Wales rose from 35,257 to 35,768, although their

total rateable value fell from pounds 45.2 million to pounds 42.7

million.



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