Hastings council agrees over £100k in rate relief

SPORTS clubs, charities and community groups are being let off council rates - with the local authority happy to forgo more than a £100,000 in annual payments.

Hastings Borough Council agreed on Monday to grant discounts to more than 100 organisations in a bid to help alleviate financial pressures.

These included St Michael’s Hospice, Opera South East, The Parchment Trust, Hastings United Football Club, Hastings Arts Forum and Freedom Leisure, which runs the town’s leisure centres for the council.

Some bids proved unsuccessful, with Sussex Coast College Hastings denied the rate break, which would have cost the council £84,110 across its two campuses.

Narconon drug rehabilitation centre was also turned down, this time because the authority could find no evidence that its work helped the local community. The same was said of a bid by the World Squash Federation, which is based here in Hastings.

It was also confirmed that the controversial Jerwood Gallery, set to open later this year, would likely to be granted a rate relief of between £13,000 and £18,000 every 12 months when the foundation behind it submits a formal application in the coming weeks.

Councillors agreed the discounts unanimously, although Cllr Matthew Lock said he was worried the relief likely to be offered to Jerwood would be used as a stick to beat the council with.

He said: “I am concerned that the people who are against what we are trying to do with Jerwood are going to jump on this as a negative rather than a positive.”

While his Conservative colleague Cllr Peter Finch said the authority should be encouraging any sports club asking for a relief to work towards Sport England’s Club Mark accreditation.

And he said that in future the council should ask to see the accounts of sports clubs before offering the relief. “If clubs are making profit through their bar,” he said, “then charity should begin at home.

“If a club is making thousands in profit then that clearly needs addressing when reviewing who we offer relief to.”