Cross Keys – some illumination, perhaps?

Found in my Protonmail inbox today, Laid out for us by wordsmith and published by rikshelpers@rikv.net for Rik.

Boston Castle Ward resident here and I have been following the recent debate on Rothpol concerning the “career” of one of my councillors, Taiba Yasseen.

First of all, I have not seen the recent article in the Advertiser so am unaware of what Taiba has said about the Cross Keys or how much information concerning this boarded up pub is in the public domain.

I am attaching a RMBC business rates file the contents of which are quite revealing.

This document is updated quarterly and includes nearly 8000 properties in Rotherham liable for business rates- it shows the address/account start date/rateable value/start date of and type of relief granted – it does not necessarily show who is liable but RMBC always tend to group the accounts together for any one liable party – eg- Yorkshire Water/NHS/Macdonalds.

The interesting properties here are the 5 accounts 2787 to 2791 with the Cross Keys listed as 2789 & 2790. There are 2 entries because Taiba bought the pub with its shop and they are rated separately.

The 2 accounts above; the Cross Keys numbered 2787 & 2788, are for the large empty shop unit below the Keppel Wharf flats.This is home to the Old Market Gallery run under the auspices of the Open Minds Theatre Company (OMTC) a registered charity.

I believe they have signed a “meanwhile lease” with the property owners, Iliad, which allows the gallery to operate from the premises and at the same time allows Iliad to take back the property at short notice if they ever find a commercial tenant for the space.

This works well for everyone concerned and is a good example of how charitable business rates relief should work – one less empty shop unit and the town gets an excellent art space with a fantastic balcony and views over the river Don – and, of course, for the property owner. No crippling business rates to pay on an empty unit.

In this case you can see from the account that OMTC were awarded 80%mandatory (MA) charitable business rates relief on occupying the space in July 2015,they subsequently applied for and were granted relief on the remaining 20% (TU – top up) at the start of the following financial year.

Now we can look at the account listed directly below the Cross Keys – 2791 – Rotherham Underground  – once again connected to OMTC – it’s the home for all theatre work from Open Minds.

Operating out of the former Turf Tavern pub on Corporation Street.They qualified for mandatory (MA) charitable business rates relief when they opened in Feb 2018 and do some good work with youth theatre – in fact later this week they are touring an open air production of Macbeth around 5 Rotherham parks with the company being made up of professional actors and local children.

Sandwiched between these 2 genuine awards of charitable relief we have the Cross Keys which suggests but does not conclusively prove, that the award of relief is in someway connected to OMTC. We all know that Taiba has strong links with people who have been involved in OMTC in particular Steve Rogers and the former OMTC director Jahangir Akhtar.

However the actual charity involved is a bit of a side issue – the key question here is have RMBC awarded the pub charitable business rates relief correctly and with due diligence.It is important to remember here that business rates is payable by the occupier and mandatory relief is only available where the ratepayer is a charity(or trustees for a charity) and the hereditament is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes. So RMBC must determine who is in occupation and whether the property is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes.

As you can see from accounts 2789 & 2790 RMBC have granted 80% mandatory (MA) charitable relief from the account start date in Sep 2016 when Taiba bought the property.

There is no way that this boarded up pub could have met any of the requirements for charitable relief – so that leaves many questions concerning governance to be answered by either our highly paid Director of Finance,Judith Badger, or Cabinet member for Finance fellow Boston Castle Ward councillor Saghir Alam.

Such as, who visited the property to assess the occupancy? Who checked the relevant paperwork – tenancy agreement or lease with a reputable charity? Who signed it off? Or did none of that happen because it involved a property owned by a leading Councillor at that time a member of the Cabinet? The granting of 80% mandatory (MA) relief is of no cost to RMBC as the tab is picked up by Central Govt (only the granting of the discretionary 20% top up (TU) is a cost to the Council).

So what else do we know about the Cross Keys?

Although we have seen Taiba has ensured that she has evaded her business rates from the start {Sep 2016), it took her a bit longer to declare ownership on her councillors’ register of interests, 16 months to be precise (Jan 2018) and only then because she became aware that Private Eye were about to include her on their annual review of errant councillors (published Jan 2018 online) for non payment of Council Tax at the pub. Yes unfortunately for Taiba, there is a flat above the Cross Keys which is rated for domestic purposes hence Council Tax and not covered by her business rates exemption. She did eventually pay in full after receiving a Magistrates Court summons.

We also know that there was a break-in sometime last year (2017) which naturally annoyed Taiba but the only things damaged or stolen was part of her extensive wardrobe she was storing there including some of her much loved Kurt Geiger shoes – no charities reported any loss.

As to her current intentions for the pub only Taiba knows but I do believe her original thoughts were along the lines of an events/theatre/drama space downstairs as she does have some expertise in that field however this is probably less likely to happen now that OMTC have access to the former Turf Tavern for drama work (however there is no disabled access at that venue).

So to conclude,RMBC; records claim there’s a charity in occupation at the Cross Keys and they have awarded them 80% business rates relief and as occupants the charity is liable for the remaining 20%. Taiba pays nothing.

Council Tax Payers in Rotherham have not lost out as this 80% relief is covered by Central Govt – however you have lost out if you pay income tax because that will be used by Central Govt to cover the relief granted by RMBC.

Taiba is the big winner in this as she has engineered a situation where she is not personally liable for business rates – the figures in the account data for the Cross Keys show the rateable value not the amount due – the charge this year for pub and shop combined is around £4,500 – on the assumption the previous year’s charge was similar – we can calculate that over 2 years (Sep 2016- Sep 2018) she has avoided an estimated £9,000 liability – a tidy sum wouldn’t you agree Rik?

If you search the net there’s plenty of examples of fraudulent use of business rates charitable relief where there is collusion between charities and property owners seeking to avoid business rates – there’s also plenty of advice from the Charity Commission and Government warning them not to do it.

When a fraudulent scheme is uncovered there are two possible outcomes – if there exists a genuine tenancy agreement/lease signed by the charity and they fail to occupy the premises they will be made liable for the full business rates. Alternatively if there’s no such paperwork, the owner, in this case Taiba, would be fully liable from Sep 2016 with no relief. 

Do you think that anybody is going to investigate this properly? – I note that Taiba claims she has let some community groups use the pub but that vague statement is not good enough as they have to be registered charities each with a signed lease/tenancy and remember we are looking for a continuous one from Sep 2016.

As for another supporter’s claim that Taiba is supporting businesses with business units what are they doing there when the building has supposedly been wholly occupied by a charity for the last 2 years?.Taiba and her supporters have not had much to say about the Cross Keys but what little they have said they appear to be digging a deeper,darker hole for her. 

To cap it all this is a prominent pub right next door to the Town Hall – 20 yards from the council chamber – right under the nose of the council leader Chris Read.Would you not think that natural curiosity would have got him and others to delve a little deeper into Taibas ownership? Especially as the council are desperately trying to regenerate the town centre and we have a leading councillor whose stewardship of this property is just contributing to the general aura of decay and decline.

Feel free to use any of this information on your website – there’s been a lot of speculation about the Cross Keys but the account data you now have is the official record of what’s happened since Taiba owned it – as the saying goes always “follow the money”.

I think it’s fair to say it leaves her and others with a few questions to answer – there’s a huge amount of information in that file but for our purposes its accounts listed 2787-2791 that are of interest – then again you could browse through all 8,000 accounts you might find some other discrepancies! (only joking)

All_Account_Data___19th_Jun_2018 (1)

See also: https://rotherhampolitics.wordpress.com/rikileaks/

 

3 thoughts on “Cross Keys – some illumination, perhaps?

  1. “Strong links with …Jahangir Akhtar”. Named in court as a rapist and the protector of a child rapist. And by the Casey report as an intimidating figure with influence over the police. Accused of subverting the taxi licensing system that allowed rapists to use the taxi trade to organise Child Sexual Exploitation. Well there’s one who might have had an interest in Just Yorkshire’s attempt to close down discussion about the organisation of the rape industry.
    Will Taiba enjoy the same impunity as her pal? Well, this is Rotherham, of course she will.

    Like

  2. The big question is what is the council going to do about it? if they stick to form, nothing is the answer, because nothing is ever done about anything.

    Like

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