Local Authority unreasonably applied incorrect rates remission policy to sports club
Local Authority - incorrect application of rates remission policy—sports club application for partial remission declined on wrong basis—Ombudsman sustains complaint
A sports club requested the Ombudsman investigate a complaint about the Council’s administration of its policy on remission of rates for a community, sporting and non-profit organisation as it applied to the club’s application for a partial remission of the Council’s rates on land the club occupied.
The complainants claimed that the Council had applied the incorrect rating remission policy to the land they occupied, whereas the Council claimed that the application failed to meet the requirements of a non-profit organisation (because it sold liquor) and therefore its application for the remission of 50% of the rates had been declined.
The Ombudsman noted that although rates remissions are at the discretion of the Council, it seemed that in deciding to decline the club’s application for a remission, the Council, while relying on the policy, has based its decision on criteria which were outside the terms of that policy. Although the club had a liquor licence, the policy criteria made it clear that the policy also applied to land which was used for games or sports and for which a club liquor licence is in force. The policy provides for an adjustment to be made in the amount of the remission for the area covered by the liquor licence (this was about 5% of the land occupied by the club).
While the Council did not rely on another provision in the policy (whether profit was being made by individual members from the sale of liquor) it was apparent that the club members did not individually derive a profit from the sale of liquor. The proceeds of the sales were invested back into the club.
Overall, the Ombudsman considered that in exercising its discretion, the Council did so on a wrong basis because it declined the club’s application for a remission of rates on the basis of matters which were outside of the stated policy objectives and criteria. The Ombudsman concluded that the Council’s decision was unreasonable and that the club’s application should be reconsidered.
Following the Ombudsman’s decision, the Council reserved its decision and gave the club rates remissions for the five year period in question. The Council also noted that it would be consulting with the community about changing the basis for the calculation of rates remissions for sports clubs to give them certainty and to make the process more efficient.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.