An Aldershot charity that provides wheelchairs to developing countries has been refused a full reduction in business rate payments
Following a review of its application, an Aldershot charity that provides wheelchairs to developing countries has been told it does not deserve full exclusion from paying business rates as it does not directly benefit Rushmoor.
Wheels for the World, which operates under umbrella charity Through the Roof, opened in the Fairfax Industrial Estate in Aldershot in July and employs inmates in Parkhurst Prison, on the Isle of Wight, to refurbish wheelchairs to be sent to countries where such equipment is unavailable.
All charities automatically qualify for an 80% reduction in their business rate payments, while the remaining 20% can be waived at the council’s discretion.
Applications for the additional reduction were considered on October 15, when it was decided that Wheels for the World had not provided enough evidence of how it benefited the local area to qualify for a deduction of around £1,790.
The decision was called in at the request of councillors Alex Crawford, Barry Jones, Mike Roberts, Keith Dibble and Jennifer Evans, and an extraordinary meeting of the council’s services policy and review panel was held to decide whether the charity’s case should be heard again by cabinet.
Cllr Jones said the charity did benefit the area in that it will provide jobs and opportunities for young people in the borough. He argued that there was some inconsistency in the cabinet’s rate relief decisions and that Through the Roof’s cause was as valid as others that had been approved.
However, Cllr Brian Parker criticised Through the Roof for the lack of detail it had provided on the application form.
“Are we just going to give them the 20% because they are who they are?” he asked.
“We don’t even know how many people they employ. Why should the council give them an extra 20% if they haven’t filled in the forms properly?”
Cllr Sophia Choudhary agreed, saying: “If the rules about discretionary rate relief apply to all charities equally, I don’t see why we should be giving special consideration to one in particular.”
The panel agreed that cabinet members would be likely to make the same negative decision again if the matter were sent back, and that the problem had arisen from a lack of clear direction to charities making the applications. It was decided that the application process would be examined in detail at the panel’s next meeting in January.
Through the Roof’s operations manager Michael Jamison said he was disappointed with the decision not to grant the relief, adding that a link with the Rotary Club of Rushmoor had been set up which would benefit Rushmoor directly.
“We’re a charity that relies on donations and every penny that doesn’t go on overheads goes to helping people in the third world,” he said.
The Vine Centre, Skills Active and The Shaw Trust were all given the 20% relief at October’s cabinet meeting.
An application from Makaton, which helps those with communication difficulties and is based in Farnborough, was rejected along with Farnborough-based Childlife, which helps small charities working with young people to raise money.