By Graham Smith
Cornwall Council is awarding business rates’ relief worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to private schools. All eight private schools in Cornwall are getting tax breaks worth a total of £417,400.80.
The relief on business rates is granted because the schools are registered as charities, even though many people regard them as private businesses. Truro High School, for example, which charges senior pupils (or their parents) nearly £14,000 per year for day girls, last year got nearly £100,000 discount on its business rates.
The biggest single tax break was for Truro School, which last year got “cash back” worth £211,004.
The disclosure now is particularly relevant as Cornwall Council prepares to debate its refusal to spend the £5,000 per year which would enable state-educated pupils from Delabole to get to Camelford’s Sir James Smith school, without having to walk nearly three miles along a dangerous, winding, narrow country lane.
State schools do have to pay business rates, unless they have also found a way to register as a charity. Most are not charities, they pay business rates to central government, some of which then finds its way back to local authorities.
Every private school in Cornwall which applied for a discount on their business rates was successful. Some of the discounts were mandatory and were obtained as a result of central government legislation. A council Freedom of Information answer added: “Local discretionary relief was automatically awarded to businesses that qualified for it.”
Truro High School for Girls last year got nearly £100,000 discount on its business rates
Mandatory Charitable relief is awarded under central government legislation. The local discretionary relief was introduced by central government in the March 2017 budget.
Local authorities were given additional funding to reduce large increases in Business rate bills following the new rating list in 2017.
The schools below qualified for local discretionary relief because of the increase between their 2016 and 2017 bills. The amount of relief awarded is dependent on the increase.
Some councils have launched inquiries into how much, if any, community benefit derives from local private schools and the Scottish government is considering ways to axe business rates relief for private schools.
Labour last year scared many in the private education sector by suggesting it would make them pay VAT.