Council commercial tenant’s rent free period to end


Jun 24, 2020

A rent free holiday for Harrogate Borough Council’s commercial tenants will not be extended beyond the end of June as the authority prepares to tackle a £15 million hole in its finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The authority gave 185 of its tenants three months rent free back in March as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While most local authorities decided to defer rents for local companies, the borough council opted to wave them completely for its tenants.

The decision, which was taken at an urgent cabinet meeting chaired by council leader, Richard Cooper, was revealed to cost taxpayers £200,000.

Some businesses received a double dose of public money with many applying for emergency government grants on top of a rent free period.

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At the time of the decision, a joint statement from Cllr Cooper and chief executive Wallace Sampson said the authority wanted to encourage others to offer support.

It said: “Our commercial tenants will be offered three months’ rent free and we’ll be doing all that we can to encourage other landlords in the district to consider what support they can offer their tenants.”

Now, the council has confirmed that the period has not been extended beyond the three month period as it faces a £15 million shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an effort to tackle the deficit, senior officers at the  authority have outlined a financial recovery plan which will go before a cabinet meeting next Wednesday.

As part of the plan, council chiefs will review the authority’s 2020/21 budget, reserves, investment plans and capital expenditure including borrowing.

Officers are expected to report more on the council’s financial position once the reviews are complete.

Meanwhile, the authority has already frozen all but essential spending and implemented a recruitment freeze on all but critical services.

It comes as both the district council and the county council face a combined deficit of around £57 million due to the pandemic.

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