// Over 78,000 non-domestic properties have been referred to bailiffs over business rates arrears
// Bailiffs given power to enter premises to seize goods and sell those at public auction to settle the debt
// Birmingham City Council referred the most premises to bailiffs over the year, followed by Westminster & Manchester
The Chancellor is facing fresh calls to ease the burden of business rates after new figures showed councils are sending bailiffs to 310 companies a day over arrears.
An investigation by real estate adviser Altus Group has found that councils have sent bailiffs to more than 78,000 non-domestic properties – many of which are retailers – across England that have struggled to pay their business rates in the year to the end of March.
Bailiffs are instructed by councils, once a Liability Order has been obtained in the Magistrates Court, to enter properties, seize goods and sell them at public auction in order to settle their debts.
Altus, which obtained the figures under the Freedom of Information Act, said around one in 16 of all business premises faced having goods seized by bailiffs last year, when stripping out those who receive small business rates relief.
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The figures come after 50 retailers – including Marks & Spencer, Harrods and Iceland – wrote to Chancellor Sajid Javid last month demanding action on the business rates burden to safeguard the future of the high street.
Firms across England could see their rates increase by £536 million for 2020-21, if the headline rate of inflation of 1.7 per cent remains unchanged in September, according to Altus.
Retailers will shoulder £136.9 million of that price hike.
Javid is being urged to freeze the tax in the upcoming budget to help businesses, many of which are already under pressure from rising costs and rents.
“It’s not the mechanics of the rating system that is of primary concern of business but the level of the actual rates bills,” Altus head of UK business Robert Hayton said.
He added: “Commercial property is already making a significant contribution to overall UK tax revenues.
“With the highest property taxes across the EU, the Chancellor should recognise this in his upcoming autumn Budget by removing the automatic inflationary increase.”
Altus’ research included details on how many business premises were referred to bailiffs from 264 English councils covering 1.7 million properties out of 1.9 million liable for rates.
The research discovered that Birmingham City Council referred the most premises to bailiffs over the year, at 3755.
Westminster and Manchester councils followed with 3007 and 2701 referrals respectively.
Meanwhile Haringey, Barking & Dagenham, Blackpool councils, and Lewisham coucils all sought collection through bailiffs on more than 15 per cent of the business premises in their areas.