GPs have reclaimed £2.2m in council tax in North Devon and Torridge since a change in the law

The region’s district councils are facing an extra strain on their finances with doctors’ surgeries now able to claim back years of council tax.

A Government decision to allow GP surgeries and health centres to claim back business rates up to 2005 has left both Torridge and North Devon councils needing to set aside money to meet the shortfall.

In 2015-16 business rate appeals from surgeries had led to £1.176million being refunded in North Devon and £1.122m in Torridge.

Both district councils are liable for 40 per cent of this. Torridge currently has 11 appeals outstanding, estimated to be around £1.258m, with the total cost to the council estimated at £503,000.

Councillor David Hurley for customer services said: “Additionally Torridge Council has set aside funds of £912,000 in reserve to cover any future adverse movement in business rates income.

“The reassessment was not something the council has any control over but the council has made appropriate provision in budgets to deal with any liability that may arise.”

Des Brailey, leader of North Devon Council, said so far this financial year they had received claims totalling £325,832, but no further claims could be made dating back to 2005.

“There are four appeals for 2010 onwards and a further 14 outstanding against the 2010 list,” he said.

“We have set aside money from our contingency reserve, enough to cover the bill. It is an extra strain on our budget, obviously a strain we could do without, but the decision has been made and we have to uphold it.”

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