MORE than £6.2 million of business rates are owed to Selby District Council, The Press can reveal.

Figures obtained by this newspaper show that, as of December 4, the council was still owed £337,887 from 2011, £150,452 from 2010, and almost £82,000 from 2009, while it was still waiting for payment of more than £5.5 million from 2012, before the end of the financial year.

The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed the only year since 1995 that the council has collected all its business rates was 2004, but the council said work was continually ongoing to collect the unpaid debts.

A spokeswoman for Selby District Council said: “We work hard to ensure our collection rates remain high. In 2010 our collection rate was 99.49 per cent and in 2011 it was 98.86 per cent.

“Our target to December 2012 was 85.48 per cent and we collected 87.91 per cent, so are ahead of target. Our in-year target for the end of March is 98.55 per cent and we are on track for achieving this for the financial year as a whole.”

Business rates are collected locally by the local authority, before it is given to central government and redistributed back to the council in the form of a grant. This will change from April, when 50 per cent of business rates will be retained by the council, after a tariff has been paid.

The spokeswoman also said action would be taken against businesses which defaulted, but encouraged struggling local businesses to contact them if there was a chance they would be unable to pay their rates.

She said: “We take collection of these rates seriously and will take action to recover any default on payment.

“However we know times are tough for many local businesses and advise that if any business is struggling to pay their rates, they should contact us so we can work together and look at whether any discretionary relief can be applied or whether a revised instalment plan is appropriate.”