At a time when our local council is haemorrhaging cash at an alarming rate, and revenues have plummeted, the income from business and domestic rates is vital to maintain services. Bear in mind also that a business’s liability for business rates is a necessary qualification for securing COVID-19 emergency funding as we described on April 20th.
This inspired us to revisit an article we published on January 30th 2019 entitled “It’s Business as “Normal” at the Grand…”. That article came about after Council bailiffs turned up at the Grand over unpaid business rates. Our research then revealed that only seven out of eighteen holiday flats were registered for business rates. It also revealed that during the Insolvency Services enquiries into Michael Stainer’s (pictured) indebtedness, he admitted in a formal declaration that there was some £10,000 owing in Council Tax.
What concerned us then, as it does now, what of the other eleven holidays flats owned by the Stainers?
Luckily Mr Stainer has come to our aid from the sanctity of the virtual witness box. Yet again, the Grand’s freeholder, Hallam Estates Ltd, in the person of its sole director, Robert Moss (pictured), currently residing at the Grand, was before the First Tier Property Tribunal. The case last Tuesday, May 5th, revolved around the use of residential flats whose lease strictly forbade commercial use, being rented out as holiday lets. We will undoubtedly be reporting on this when the Tribunal issues its determination, as the proceedings were quite remarkable in many ways.
The issue here however, is a specific question put twice to Michael Stainer. He was asked as to whether all the eighteen flats were registered for business rates, as they should be, as shown on the Council’s Business rates data 2020 for May.
His answer on both times of asking, even when challenged a second time, was a clear and unequivocal “yes”.
Here’s the true answer taken directly from the May 2020 Business rates data sheet, easily available to download from the Council’s website.
The only difference from last year is that Hallam Estates Ltd are now the primary liable party, whereas in January 2019 the primary liable party was The Grand Folkestone Partnership Ltd, notwithstanding that this company went into liquidation in September 2018. That will also pose some problems to the Council as Hallam’s financial problems as reported back in March were made far worse when the Honourable Judge Zacaroli twice rejected applications to stay insolvency proceedings on April 17th 2020 and 5th May 2020.
But what of the missing flats, all eleven of them? As they were absent from the Council’s Business rates register, they must be registered for domestic rates. To find them, we went to the Council Tax valuation list.
Eight flats do not show up on either register: The Gordon, The Glynde, Grand (Suite) – better known as the flat that never was Hastings, Hever, Hythe, Grasmere, Goodwood. So that’s eight lots of Council tax to be accounted for. What is described as the Penthouse Floor in the Business Rates register is in fact four flats: the Pembury, Petworth, Penshurst and Pembroke.
So back to Mr Stainer and the memory malfunction. His “yes” should have been a “no”.
So what about false statements in a Tribunal? These violate Section 32.14 of the Civil Rules & Practice Direction(1) where “proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against a person if he makes…. a false statement.”
The Shepwayvox Team
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