Councils are under fire for failing to fully allocate free government funds to independent businesses.

Both Redbridge and Waltham Forest did not fully allocate the Discretionary Revaluation (2017) Rates Relief Scheme funding provided by central government and the left-over money was returned to the government.

However, both councils allocated a higher percentage of the money than most local authorities in the country.

In 2017/18 Waltham Forest did not allocate £91, 909 of its £1,124,718 funding - 8.17 per cent. In 2018/19 the council did not allocate £68.570 of its £546,291 funding - 12.55 per cent.

In 2017/18 Redbridge did not allocate £61.951 of its £999,336 funding - 6.20 per cent and in 2018/19 the council did not allocate £63.052 of its £485.392 funding - 12.99 per cent.

Ian B. Sloan, of chartered surveyors Bankier Sloan, who monitor the distribution of the business rates relief, said: “We accept that allocation is often not exact ...although many councils have correctly allocated over 99% per cent of funds. The actual amounts involved vary dramatically.

“We have despaired at moments over the last two years as councils have in many cases failed to alter their schemes in order to insure they spent the free funding provided by central government intended to

help local businesses. The funding was ring-fenced and has now been returned to the government."

Many businesses suffered an increase in their business rates following the April 2017 property revaluation.

The government’s March 2017 budget announced a variety of new reliefs to support businesses including the Discretionary Revaluation (2017) Rates Relief Scheme which allocated £300 million to local councils to give away free to local businesses over a four-year period.

Across the UK 40 local authorities failed to allocate over 70 per cent of the funding in the scheme’s second year.

A Waltham Forest council spokesperson said: “It is not correct to suggest businesses are missing out on funding from the Discretionary Revaluation Rates Relief Scheme. Each financial year we identify the businesses that meet the criteria to qualify and calculate how we can get the best deal for each of them, doing all we can to target those who need help the most.

“Business rates are set by central government. Under the rules of the relief scheme we cannot add new businesses as it is only open to those that faced large increases as a result of the 2017 Revaluation.

“We carefully ensure every penny of the fund is allocated at the beginning of the billing year. However, businesses leave the scheme for various reasons – for example, if they cease trading from the relevant premises – and under the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government’s rules we cannot redistribute any underspend at the end of the year as we would like.

“Some 3,200 Waltham Forest businesses currently receive some sort of relief. We are proud of our record nurturing businesses in the borough and we will continue to provide support to the traders and entrepreneurs who are vital for our economy.”

A Redbridge council spokesperson said: “The government scheme introduced following the revaluation in 2017 allowed for £300m across England of which Redbridge’s share was £0.999m, £0.485m, £0.200m and £0.029m for the respective years from 2017/18 to 2020/21.

“In 2017/18 Redbridge forecast to allocate the full amount within the time frame set by government.

“Approximately 1600 Redbridge businesses originally benefited from the Revaluation Relief Scheme, but over time some businesses were no longer entitled to it following a revaluation, award of another reduction, or change in liability.

“The council revisited how remaining funds were allocated in light of this, and as a result was able to increase the relief for those business still entitled to the Revaluation Relief Scheme.

“However, this could only be done up until the time frame set by government, beyond this date any unawarded sums could not be redistributed. The same applied for 2018/19.

“In 2019/20 the council has awarded £0.182m of the £0.200m granted in respect of 2019/20, and remains committed to redistributing the relief in line with the scheme until September 2020.”