Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones defends bosses' decision to hand £125,000 to Mike Ashley in business rates relief

Doncaster mayor Ros Jones has defended bosses who signed off £125,000 in business rates relief to Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley.Â

Thursday, 13th December 2018, 3:50 pm
Updated Friday, 14th December 2018, 7:30 am
Flannels on Priory Walk. Picture: George Torr

High-end clothing retailer Flannels, part of Ashley's Sports Direct group, will be given the six-figure sum in business rates '˜help' by council bosses amid concerns the former pub and nightclub unit it bought back in 2016 would be left derelict for years to come.

Doncaster Council agreed the funding to Flannels' over the '˜derelict' site at Priory Walk, formerly the Walkabout bar, despite the fashion chain turning over £62 million last year making a £5 million in profit.

Renovation had already begun on the former pub and nightclub but work was halted by Ashley's head of property acquisition rendering the premises unusable and not liable to pay any business rates unlike neighbouring chains and independents.

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Council documents show bosses knew the move may upset independent traders and should consider '˜the risk of setting a precedent for further retail applications and challenges if they are not supported'.

But Mayor Jones, who said she was not aware of the decision, defended the move which was made by officers and said '˜any business' could apply for the Business Investment Incentive Scheme '˜if they meet the right criteria'.

The mayor added the scheme, which has help 29 businesses with relief, is a net gain for the council in the long run. 

'All business have the ability to apply if they meet the criteria which is something handled by our officers,' she said. 

'We want businesses to grow and actually give a good service and create employment for people. 

'It's about stimulating the town and actually ensuring we comply to every business that meets the criteria are able to do it.

'I don't go through every grant that's made out to business because it's an officer's decision.'