Charity shops face a 'postcode lottery' with councils, research suggests

Research carried out by the Charity Retail Association found that shops from the same charity got completely different deals on rates and waste disposal depending on where they were situated

Charity shops: 'postcode lottery'
Charity shops: 'postcode lottery'

Charity shops are operating under a "postcode lottery" in terms of how councils offer support, and only 7 per cent of local authorities offer charity shops full business rates relief, according to research from the Charity Retail Association.

The research, which was carried out last year and involved sending freedom of information requests to all 405 upper-tier local authorities in the UK, found that shops from the same charity might get completely different packages of support from their councils because they were in different areas.

The criteria on which councils based decisions on rate relief and waste disposal charges, for example, was "often not transparent and readily accessible", researchers found.

One in four local authorities was unaware of the exact number of charity shops in its area, according to the research, and the vast majority required charities to pay some business rates.

Charities are automatically entitled to an 80 per cent mandatory relief on business rates, but councils have the option of giving further rate relief of 20 per cent to exempt charities from paying any form of business rates.

But only 7 per cent of councils actually offered charities the full rate relief, the survey found, with most opting for a figure of between 1 per cent and 20 per cent.

And 23 per cent of councils reviewed their additional rate relief policy on an individual basis, the research found.

The research also discovered that, although 68 per cent of councils did not charge for accepting charity shop household waste at recycling centres, many staff overseeing the sites were unaware of this policy and could sometimes still block access.

Councils in London and Wales were the least likely to offer waste recycling services to charities for free, the research found, but those in Scotland and the north of England were the most generous.

Only a quarter of councils had a partnership with a local charity retailer at their recycling sites, the research discovered.

Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA, said the report highlighted 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".

He said: "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."

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