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Council claims it was 'hindered' collecting business rates at own building

The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.

The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.

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Norwich City Council agreed on Wednesday to write off almost £580,000 of debts owed by firms in unpaid business rates - including from a company in one of its own buildings.

The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.

The largest amount owed, worth £240,000, was by a company called Flexi Office Solutions Ltd which rented out offices in the Union Building on Rose Lane to other firms.

Flexi Office Solutions was meant to pay rates on behalf of companies it sublet offices in the Union Building to.

But the council said in a report to its cabinet on Wednesday that it was “hindered” in its attempts to visit the building, which it owns, to get the information it needed to collect the money.

It added it was “hindered” either by Flexi Office Solutions or a firm called Harold & Sons Limited which rents the building from the council and then leased it to Flexi Office Solutions.

The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.

The council did not give details as to how it was hindered.

But Steve Christophi, the owner and director of Harold & Sons, denied his firm hindered the council.

He said: “Harold & Sons Limited was not involved in the management or any other aspect of the building and in no way hindered any process by the council or anyone else.”

Flexi Office Solutions was dissolved in August 2017 meaning the council can not pursue it for the debt.

The debt was racked up between April 2015 and August 2017.

A rental contract signed by one firm in the Union Building during that time with Flexi Office Solutions states the dissolved company was responsible for paying the business rates.

Councillors also agreed to write off debts by companies which have struggled.

Almost £100,000 in business rates owed by Homebase for its Hall Road store was written off, along with women’s fashion shop Select in Castle Mall.

They owed a little over £80,000.

The final debt was Game Station, which used to be in Castle Mall.

It went into administration more than three years ago, before it was dissolved in 2016.

The company had owed nearly £160,000.

Cabinet member for resources councillor Paul Kendrick said the council had done it all could to try to get the money.

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