Filey MP Kevin Hollinrake demands action over business rates reduction services
Filey MP Kevin Hollinrake has accused a surveying company of defrauding a Hunmanby business owner out of thousands of pounds over a number of years, describing the company as 'conmen'.
Mr Hollinrake launched a scathing attack on RVS Surveyors during a Westminster Hall debate, which he had tabled, into the activities of business rates reduction services.
He said: "I became aware of RVA’s unscrupulous behaviour when a constituent Jude Carter who runs Dreams, Hair and Beauty Salon in Hunmanby, told me she had lost thousands of pounds after being approached by RVA."
A spokesperson from RVA Surveyors Ltd said the company refuted the claims made by Mr Hollinrake. The company stated in a letter previously sent to the MP that Mrs Carter had benefited from a substantial rebate as well as a reduction in business rates payable going forward as a result of the work carried out by RVA.
Mr Hollinrake told MPs that RVA would use a Freedom of Information request to find out from local authorities which companies qualified for business rates relief and would then pressurise that company to sign a long term contract diverting half this government support into its own bank accounts.
The MP said that Manchester based RVA provided no service in return apart from writing a single letter to the local authority requesting the rates relief which any small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) was entitled to and could have claimed itself.
In Mrs Carter’s case her rate relief would have been £3,000 a year of which RVA took 52% over a 12 year period.
Mr Hollinrake said: "I think that there are hundreds if not thousands of people who have effectively been defrauded in this way.”
He called for urgent action to stop these practices and close down RVA to protect businesses and added he was disappointed that the Insolvency Service had so far failed to take action and urged the minister to extend the Consumer Protection laws to include micro businesses so that contracts could be challenged in court.
Responding to the debate Treasury Minister, Jesse Norman, said there is no reason why an agent should be needed to claim business rates on an SME’s behalf as they can claim the relief simply by contacting their local council.
She expressed support for Mr Hollinrake’s calls for the Insolvency Service to take action and to extend consumer rights regulations to micro-businesses.
A spokesman for RVA said: “We would point out that the client referred to is subject to legal action and as such they are unable to make any further comment regarding that client.”
The spokesman said Mr Hollinrake’s statement “further demonstrates his lack of understanding of the business rates process, his council’s inability to apply the correct business rates and the various legislations which clearly sets out how business rates, reliefs and Covid-related grants are to be implemented and applied.
It added: “Our client refutes any allegations made by Mr Hollinrake and reiterates they are proud that they provide a much needed services to thousands of businesses every year which reduces the business rates liabilities and creates refunds for the vast majority of those clients.”
"In the spirit of openness RVA would happily invite Mr Hollinrake into its business to allow him to fully understand what RVA do for their clients, for him to gain a more detailed understanding of business rates, reliefs and covid grants."
In response, Mr Hollinrake said: "‘If RVA provide such a valued service to their customers perhaps they will waive their long-term contractual tie in - 12 years in my constituent’s case."
An Insolvency Service spokesperson said: “We have the power to investigate limited companies where it is in the public interest to do so. Where there is sufficient evidence of serious misconduct, we will not hesitate to petition the courts to wind-up such companies.
"Our investigations into RVA Surveyors concluded we did not find sufficient evidence of misconduct to warrant such a petition.”