VOTE Council tax relief being denied to youth service

Trustees of a popular youth service in Selsey said they have fallen down the rabbit hole and joined Alice in Wonderland after the district council denied them discretionary relief on council tax.

Usually the Snak Shak is given a helping hand by Chichester DIstrict Council (CDC) so trustees don’t have to fork out £500 to run its service.

However the youth drop-in centre will not be getting a penny back from the £500 it has paid over the past 12 months – and it will have to find the same figure in the future.

Trustee Gerry Smith said: “All of the people that know about it feel the same way. It is absolutely ridiculous that people’s donations are having to be spent on providing a service which the council should be providing in the first place.”

As a registered charity, the Snak Shak receives 80 per cent relief on the council tax levied on its warehouse home in High Street.

During 2008/09 and 2009/10 the trustees applied for discretionary relief to CDC for the other 20 per cent, which amounts to some £500 per year, which they got.

However for 2010/2011 there was no tax relief. The drop-in centre is staffed by 26 unpaid volunteers and the company is managed by seven unpaid trustees.

Another setback is the council tax applies to every day of the year, but the Snak Shak is required by the local planning authority to be closed for 91 days a year. Mr Smith said this defied ‘common sense’.

A CDC spokesman said: “Like similar charities, Snak Shak will continue to qualify for 80 per cent mandatory relief on their business rates.

“However, due to budgetary constraints it has been necessary for us to review our policy for awarding grants and concessions. This includes Discretionary Rate Relief.

“A new policy came into effect from April 2010 after a period of consultation. A panel of councillors considers all applications for Discretionary Rate Relief.

“All applications must meet agreed criteria.

“Unfortunately applicants that do not meet the new policy requirements have not been awarded relief.

“All recipients of discretionary rate relief have been given a minimum of 12 months’ notice of the end of that relief to allow time to adjust their budgetary requirements.”