Local authorities do not offer fair and transparent policies on charity business rates relief, according to report - Thorne Widgery

Charity shops are “falling victim” to inconsistent and unfair policies on business rates relief and waste management, according to a new industry report.

The Charity Retail Association (CRA) studied more than 400 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales and their policies on charity shops.

It found that one in four local authorities do not know how many charity shops they have in their area, while the criteria by which they choose to allocate additional rates relief is often “hidden or unclear”.

The CRA says the system for choosing which charity shop qualifies for rates relief is “inconsistent”, with councils often allocating relief based on “personal relationships”.

Local authorities have the power to grant charity shops between one and 20 per cent of additional rate relief, but local authorities appear to abstain from granting relief on a wide scale. In fact, just seven per cent of councils grant the full 20 per cent, meaning many charities are forced to pay all or slightly reduced business rates.

The disparity in waste disposal relief across the UK is also alarming. Around 72 per cent of Scottish charity shops benefit from good deals in waste management, while just 46 per cent of charity shops in Wales and 54 per cent of charity shops in England can say the same.

Chief Executive of the Charity Retail Association Robin Osterley said: “Our extensive new report highlights the bizarre situation where charity shops from the same chain, delivering exactly the same services and performing in exactly the same way, can get a completely different package of support in terms of rate relief and waste disposal charges simply because they are located on different sides of an authority boundary.

“That’s why we are calling on local authorities to be mindful of their responsibilities to accept household waste coming from charity shops, and to be generous to charity shops when it comes to offering discretionary rate relief. We don’t believe the current system offers consistent, transparent or fair support to shops across the country. And we are also calling for all local authorities to publish set criteria against which they will award discretionary rate relief.”