Rye shop ‘victimised’ over air conditioning

David Percival (pictured) owns Bargain Box in partnership with his father John
David Percival (pictured) owns Bargain Box in partnership with his father John

A shop owner believes he is being victimised by the council after being forced to pay around £6,000 because he has air conditioning.

John Percival is one of three partners who own Bargain Box, Cinque Ports Street, Rye, and he says they will close if they are made to pay the fee.

An increase in the shop’s rateable value by having air con means it is no longer deemed a small business and has to pay more in rates.

But Mr Percival believes Rother District Council (RDC) is singling Bargain Box out as he knows of many shops in Rye with air con that are not being made to pay.

“This isn’t right and it’s just not worth carrying on at this rate,” he said.

“If everybody’s going to take everything you own then it’s not worth the hassle.

“We try our best to make an honest living and help the community but they nail us the ground.

“The money is not the main thing – it’s the fact that we have been victimised and I want to know why.”

Mr Percival said RDC commissioned an independent report to investigate the rateable value of Rye businesses, which lead to Bargain Box’s value increasing as their air con was reported to HM Revenue and Customs.

But when he asked for the report, the council knew nothing about it.

He has also asked Rye MP Amber Rudd to take up his case.

The community has rallied around Bargain Box as 556 people have signed a petition calling for the ‘air conditioning tax’ to be removed.

“It’s very nice that somebody’s gone to that trouble and great to know that you have some support but the bottom line is I need some honest answers from Rother,” he said.

“It’s totally unfair and totally indefensible.”

An RDC spokesman said: “While the district council collects business rates, we are not responsible for setting the rateable value of properties.

“This is a decision taken by the government’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

“In this instance, we understand that the rateable value of the property has increased as a result of alterations made by the owners.

“The owner has the right to appeal against this increase to the VOA.

“If the appeal fails and the owner feels that the business rates liability cannot be met, an application can be made to the council for discretionary rate relief on the grounds of hardship.”

A VOA spokesperson said they cannot comment on individual cases and business owners can contact them if they think their rateable value is unfair.

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