The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains the Council refused to decide on his charity’s applications for mandatory charitable rate relief which he submitted in November 2019 and August 2020. We have no jurisdiction to consider the complaint about the application submitted in November 2019. We find no fault with the Council’s actions in relation to the August 2020 application.
- Mr X complains the Council has refused to decide on his charity’s applications for mandatory charitable rate relief which he submitted in November 2019 and August 2020.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- We cannot investigate a complaint about the start of court action or what happened in court. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5A, paragraph 1/3, as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I spoke with Mr X and considered the information he provided.
- I made enquiries with the Council and considered the information it provided.
- I sent a draft decision to Mr X and the Council and considered their comments.
What I found
- Charities can apply for charitable rate relief of up to 80% if a property is used for charitable purposes. Councils can decide to top up the discount to 100%. This is known as discretionary relief. Mr X works for a charity.
- There is email correspondence between the Council and Mr X’s charity in May 2019. This email notes the Council had declined the charity’s application for charitable rate relief as the charity had not provided enough information for the Council to accept the application. The Council asked the charity to provide several documents and to answer questions about the charity. The Council said unless the documents were provided, it would not revisit the decision.
- In November 2019, Mr X applied for charitable rate relief for the financial year 2019/20. Mr X said the Council has not made a decision on the application.
- In August 2020, Mr X said he submitted a further application for charitable rate relief for the financial year 2020/21. Mr X said the Council has not made a decision on this application either.
- In October 2020, the Council sent the charity an email. The Council said it would not be revisiting any applications for mandatory charitable rate relief for all financial years preceding April 2020 as these matters had been dealt with by the Courts.
- The Council also noted that if the charity wished for its application for mandatory charitable rate relief in respect of the 2020/21 financial year to be considered, the charity would need to provide fresh evidence. The Council set out the evidence required. The Council explained once the evidence was received and assessed, the Council would issue a decision on the application.
- The Council sent another email to the charity in January 2021. In this email, the Council confirmed that all matters prior to April 2020 had been dealt with and the Council would not grant any mandatory charitable rate relief for any of the periods prior to that date. The Council also confirmed all matters have been determined at Court and that it had secured a liability order against the charity for non-payment of business rates in 2019/20.
- The Council also reiterated the evidence it required to make a decision on the application for the financial year 2020/21. The Council explained it would decide on the application once the required evidence was received.
- I am satisfied, on balance, the evidence available shows the matters relating to the charity’s application for mandatory charitable rate relief prior to April 2020 has been dealt with at Court. The Council has secured a liability order for non-payment of business rates for the financial year 2019/20. Therefore, the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction to consider the matter further.
- The evidence shows the Council has explained to Mr X’s charity the evidence it needs to decide whether to grant charitable rate relief for the financial year 2020/21. There is no evidence the charity provided the requested evidence to the Council.
- Therefore, I do not find fault with the Council. This is because it has told the charity what evidence it needs to provide to support its application. It is open to the charity to provide the Council with the requested evidence to enable the Council to make a decision.
- I find no fault with the Council’s actions. Therefore, I have completed my investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman