PLANS to charge village halls business rates in Torridge will go ahead, meaning the average village hall in the district will need to pay £179 in the coming financial year.

Torridge District Council recently decided to place part of the liability for business rates back on village halls from next month.

But Cllr Anna Dart (Independent, Hartland) feels that halls should not have to pay anything in taxes. At a community and resources committee meeting on Monday, March 6, she suggested the council find ways to fully discount the costs.

The majority of business rates that village halls pay is covered by government grants, including a discount for organisations in retail, hospitality and leisure.

The council covers that itself rather than accepting the government’s offer.

“Effectively, Torridge is kicking itself because it is bearing the costs when it could have borne by the government,” said Cllr Dart.

“Surely that is an issue for Torridge to take up with the government, not to claw back what it views as losses from our halls and ultimately our taxpayers.”

Cllr Dart said some of her colleagues have not spent all of their councillor grants – money from the government that councillors can use to support their communities – in recent years, so suggested a portion of those should be put towards cancelling village halls’ business rates.

But Conservative leader Cllr Simon Newton, who represents Winkleigh, insisted that he does spend all of his grant on his community, and advised caution on Cllr Dart’s part before asking them to divert their money to village halls.

And Cllr Nick Laws (Independent, Westward Ho!) feels that the money being asked of village halls is reasonable.

“It is difficult times,” he said. “I feel for the village halls, but their burden in the hard times – this amount of money, is not a huge burden. We’ve got a lot of difficult decisions we’re going to have to make – and the next council will have to make – and it doesn’t look as though it’s going to get much easier.”

Cllr David Brenton (Labour, Bideford South) and council leader Cllr Ken James (Independent, Milton and Tamarside) both suggested town councils should be able to cover village hall costs, while Conservative Cllr Rosemary Lock of Two Rivers and Three Moors claimed that village halls will need to pay significantly less than several originally feared.

The committee overwhelmingly agreed not to give village halls a further discount on business rates.

Rob Kershaw