By Louise Bozec
Pubs and hotels are among the worst offenders when it comes to not paying their business rates, according to local councils.
Each year local authorities across the UK are forced to write off thousands of pounds in unpaid rates because publicans and hoteliers either go bust or simply cannot meet their bills.
James Coules, who collects business rates in the Kent seaside resorts of Margate and Ramsgate for Thanet District Council, ranks pubs and hotels in his top 10 hit-list of non-payers.
"Many cannot pay their rates because they have had to struggle to survive since the early 1990s," he said.
Teesdale District Council was forced to write off £27,000 in unpaid business rates last year, more than £20,000 of which was owed by pubs and restaurants.
The council is now campaigning to take control of drinks licensing, which it could use to force hospitality businesses to pay up (Caterer, 25 June, page 12).
Andrew Moore, rates collector for Blackpool Borough Council, where there are about 2,000 hotels, said it was usually the same hoteliers who offended each year.
"For whatever reason, they don't manage their businesses in a satisfactory way," he said.
And a spokesman for Lancaster City Council commented: "One hotel in particular owed us more than £10,000."
Possible reasons given by local authorities for the high level of non-payment by the hospitality industry include the impact on sales of drink-driving campaigns, illegal alcohol imports from the Continent and high rents charged by the breweries.
Hotels have been hit by increasing numbers of people choosing to go on holiday abroad and individuals deciding to run a hotel without understanding the full implications.