Looming £1.3m Budget Gap set for Council Debate
A debate has been called at the Borough Council this week because of the looming funding gap of £1.3 million faced by local councils, police and fire services from the large percentage of student housing in West Lancashire. Councillors are being asked to join forces with Liverpool who have already called for Government action on the matter.
Council Independents, Our West Lancashire have tabled a motion for debate. Cllr Adrian Owens pointed out that student landlords do not pay for the local public services their tenants use because student accommodation is currently exempt from business rates and student households are exempt from council tax.
Cllr Owens said, “Yet, student landlords have need of the police, fire and other services 365 days a year while their tenants generate much need of local council services, e.g. extra street cleansing, waste management, and environmental health demands (noise abatement and poor housing conditions).”
“West Lancashire currently loses £1.3million in council tax annually from student accommodation which is exempt from council tax. Presently, the Government provides a grant to cover this loss, at least in part. However, there will be no grant funding by 2020 meaning further reductions in local services. Inevitably, this will mean fewer street sweepers, more litter, and longer waiting times.”
“The Ormskirk councillor stressed, “Students are a very welcome part of our community and our local economy, but live in concentrated areas of the Borough in densely populated conditions. This has a big impact on services in these parts of the Borough. Student households should continue to be exempt from council tax, as students are on low (and loaned) incomes. Student landlords however, are profit –making businesses, and should pay properly for the demands their business model makes on public services.”
The Our West Lancashire motion if passed would require the council to write to the Government asking that councils should be given powers to bring student landlords within the scope of business rates in the same way that hotels, self-catering and holiday lets are within the scope of business rates.
Cllr Owens concluded, “We have a petition on the subject which has already generated more than 350 signatures from local people and many comments showing widespread support for what we are saying.” People wishing to add their support can sign the petition or via the Our West Lancashire website.