Popular audio news charity could be silenced by rates bombshell

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A DISPUTED £16,000 rates bill is causing concern for a charity which provides a vital service for thousands of blind and partially-sighted people.

Cue and Review supplies clients with free audio recordings of daily newspapers, magazines, television listings and other invaluable information.

In 2004 the organisation, headed up by Alastair McPhee, faced the possibility of their studio being sold.

He responded by successfully purchasing the entire building on Crowhill Road using a £438,000 mortgage approved by the Bank of Scotland and the Scottish Executive’s Social Investment Scheme.

One of the conditions of the loan was that it could only be lent to a ‘not for profit’ company.

Cue and Review set up such an organisation - naming their ‘enterprise arm’ Deanwood Ltd.

Deanwood Ltd leases 19 units in the building to local businesses, with the proceeds used to pay off the mortgage and fund charity work.

Councils are given discretionary powers to give organisations 100 per cent business rates relief if they are concerned with charitable activities.

But council chiefs apparently insist that Deanwood is NOT a ‘not for profit’ organisation and refuse to even consider offering rates relief.

It has left Cue and Review facing a massive £16,000 bill and several council-sanctioned visits from debt collectors demanding payment.

Mr McPhee told the Herald: “The chief executive of our lenders, Social Investment Scotland, has written to the council highlighting that by law they can only lend to not for profit organisations.

“If they can lend us £438,000 on that basis, surely the council can also recognise we are a ‘not for profit’ organisation.

“There are 188,000 Scots who are blind or partially-sighted and we are the only people doing what we do.

“Paying £16,000 would be the end for us. We’d have to shut up shop and the council wouldn’t get any money anyway.

“We have asked the council to tell us what is wrong, but they just say they aren’t able to give us advice.”

Ian Black, head of finance and ICT at East Dunbartonshire Council, said: “The council will not comment about any ongoing disputes, however, registered charities qualify for rates exemption and organisations which are eligible for relief, such as the Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme, also receive discounts.

“The council’s practices are based on and compliant with all relevant legislation and guidance and we are required to pursue debt from any rate payers where a liability is established.”

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