Buckinghamshire Council successfully prosecutes company for false grant application

Buckinghamshire Council has led a successful prosecution against Milegate Limited (a company registered at 20 Somerleyton Road, London, SW9 8ND) after the company applied for a business grant for the Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Covid-related business rates relief scheme according to the guidelines but had stated that they were not the responsible ratepayers at their premises – a requirement to qualify for the grant.

On 23 August 2019, the defendant company, as the registered owner of The George Inn, Post Office Lane, George Green, Slough, SL3 6AX, was sent a notice requiring payment of outstanding business rates amounting to £20,212.58.

On 3 September 2019, an email was received from the company advising that, although it was the freeholder, the premises had been rented out to a third party who should be liable for the rates. Attached to the email was a copy of what appeared to be a lease agreement between Milegate Limited and the third-party company.

A Rates Inspector visited the premises on 16 January 2020, noted that the pub was open for business and spoke with the manager.

On 3 February 2020, a further demand notice was issued in the name of Milegate Limited for the entire rates of £20,212.58. In response to this notice, a further email was received from the company on 16 March 2020, attaching a copy of the same purported lease agreement with another company.

However, on 17 April 2020, the company submitted an application to the Council for a Retail, Hospitability and Leisure Grant on the basis that it was the ratepayer occupying the premises. This contradicted the earlier assertions that they were not the responsible ratepayers of the premises.

On 12 August 2021, Milegate Limited entered guilty pleas at Aylesbury Crown Court to two offences of fraud by false representation committed on 3 September 2019 and 16 March 2020.

At the time the company was sentenced on 18 January 2022, the Judge praised the Council for its doggedness and proper prosecution of these matters and fined Milegate Limited £21,000, having reduced the fine by 25% for the guilty pleas. The Court also awarded legal costs of £7,410 and imposed a statutory surcharge with the total amount to be paid within 14 days.

John Chilver, Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources, Property and Assets, commented:

“We are very pleased with the outcome of this case and hope that our action sends a very strong message that Buckinghamshire Council will not tolerate corporate fraud.”

If you suspect a local business or someone of committing fraud, please send an email to investigations@buckinghamshire.gov.uk or call the Fraud Hotline number on 01296 382237.