Milton Keynes pub may call last orders over soaring rates bills

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Three friends who turned a flagging pub into a booming business fear they will be forced to close – because of a 260 per cent rate rise.

Wayne Bell, Tony Kelly and Dan Barry clubbed together to take over the lease of Bletchley’s Eight Belles two years ago.

The trio, all in their early 30s, worked non stop to improve the historic pub, which is where Bletchley Park workers used to drink and unwind after their wartime activities.

“We’re doing well – obviously too well. Because out of the blue came a letter from Milton Keynes Council saying our business rates were going up by a ridiculous amount,” said Wayne.

To make matters worse, the rise has been backdated for months by £30,000 – and the pub has been given just two months to pay this amount in full.

“It’s impossible. We’ve been ordered to pay £15,000 on December 1 and another £15,000 on January 1.” said Wayne.

“We can’t do this. We’re just going to have to close down,” he added.

Already loyal Eight Belles customers are considering setting up a social media appeal for donations to save their pub.

Meanwhile Wayne and his partners are appealing against the rate hike.

Rates are set by government valuation officers and local councils are tasked with collecting them.

Wayne added: “We’ve investigated the business rates of other premises in the area that are bigger than us and busier than us. They seem to pay far less, which we think is unfair. We’re hoping we will win our appeal.”

The rates bill for the eight Belles pub was £18,000 a year when Wayne and his friends took it over.

It had been at this level since 2005, they believe.

The new rates bill is almost £47,000 a year - there is also a backdated bill which totals just over £30,000