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Supermarket must pay £78k rates bill, curtail development

21 March 2011

Co-founder of The People’s Supermarket Kate Bull has announced some of its community projects will have to be curtailed after it was landed with a £78,000 rates bill

It was refused relief by Camden council under the Discretionary Rates Review Scheme, which is frequently given to non-profit organisations. The People’s Supermarket will appeal against the Camden council decision not to apply business rate relief.

The People’s Supermarket argued its central London store was ‘providing its member and the community with local food at reasonable prices’ and had a ‘clear public benefit’ to the local people and society as a whole, with all profits being fed back into the community.

Highbury magistrates' court ordered TPS to pay arrears of £35,000 and business rates of £45,000 for next year. TPS have agreed to pay back £600 a week part of a weekly payment plan over the next two years. Owing to court order and because of the debt all planned store improvements and local community projects will have to be postponed or cancelled including:

· The instillation of air conditioning in the store, which during the summer will have a direct impact on the fresh fruit and vegetables

· Replacement of new and more environmentally friendly fridges planned to lower the stores environmental impact

· The purchase of an electric vehicle for collections, this was to be used to go out to the local farms and collect the over-cropped produce the supermarket sells at a reduced rate to its members

· The Supermarket’s apprentice and training programme, which currently employees four local residents who have come from the unemployment scheme who are being trained in retail management and all new hires have been curtailed

Co-founder Kate Bull accepts the decision, saying: “We of course will comply with the courts judgement but I feel it's highlighted some difficulties social enterprises face in this country.

“We plan to appeal against Camden council’s decision not to grant us relief under the current scheme which does allow them to give us up to an 80% reduction in our business rates. My understanding is because we have a declared aim to make a profit we're less eligible for support and it's counting against us to get funding.

“As the country’s only member-owned and operated social enterprise supermarket, our vision was to create a commercially sustainable, social enterprise that achieves its growth and profitability targets while operating within values based on community but because of the large rates bill we have to cut back on some of our plans.

“It’s a shame really as one of the keys to our business is helping the community and we're going to have cut our apprentice and training programme, which would have given four more local people gainful employment and a recognised qualification.”

The People's Supermarket was opened last summer by Kate Bull, Arthur Potts Dawson and regeneration consultant David Barrie. Today TPS has 13 paid staff who are helped by nearly a 1,000 members, serving over 4,000 customers a week and was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary.

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