Kirklees Council could heed a national call to look at business rates for wind turbines.

David Smith, director of resources, says no rates have yet made their way to the authority as a result of turbines.

“I’ve been part of a group that has called for them to be given a ratable value. We have 96 but they do not have a rating. The argument is they are ancillary to the farm, but it’s something we’re pursuing.”

The issue relates to whether farmers install wind turbines to support farm functions and to what extent they generate income from selling energy to the National Grid.

Under the Local Government Finance Act 2012 rates from income from new renewable energy projects can be retained by the local authority, but Kirklees is yet to benefit.

View of the wind turbines off Whiteley Road, Upper Cumberworth.
View of the wind turbines off Whiteley Road, Upper Cumberworth.
 

Meanwhile, appeals against business rate bills could hit council coffers. Kirklees has put aside £7.3m to minimise impact of potential losses should appeals go against it.

Mr Smith told councillors: “There is still a backlog from valuation lists in 2005 and 2010 and we now share that risk with central government.

“We have a number of businesses, including large warehouses at the Birstall retail park which are yet to settle assessments and there is a potential risk to the council’s tax income, but we have made provision for that and will continue to do so.”

Kirklees Council Director of Resources David Smith.
 

Clr David Ridgway, Colne Valley Lib Dem, commented: “The public has the impression that shops in the town centre are owned by council, whereas many are in private ownership and we cannot set rent for a landlord who is, most likely, absent.”

The council makes around £100m from business rates with around 80% of small businesses in line for relief.

Scrutiny Chair Clr David Hall, Conservative for Liversedge and Gomersal, wanted a debate about where council could use discretionary powers to help regenerate town centres.

“Have we a policy that influences the high street? Can we use rates relief as part of its regeneration? People do complain about the number of charity shops.”

Mr Smith replied: “There is a debate that if such shops don’t have to pay business rates they can afford to bid more for a property.

“Whether rates or other retail trends are the reason is beyond my expertise, but there are examples of discount and charity shops doing slightly better.

“We don’t have the ability to vary the tax rate, it’s one thing the Local Government Association has been calling for.”

The council Scrutiny Panel recommended Cabinet look at devolution of some rates relief to District Committees.

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Should business rates be levied on wind turbines?