BUSINESSES in Barnsley town centre could have their trading licences suspended or revoked if they are found to be behind on their fees.

A clampdown on traders swerving the charge - which has to be paid to Barnsley Council yearly as part of the Licensing Act 2003 - is underway and the Chronicle can reveal that businesses with long-standing arrears could face the prospect of immediate closure if a resolution cannot be found.

Establishments such as takeaways, shops and nightclubs have all come under the spotlight, with some operating businesses being found to have accumulated ‘years’ of historic debt.

Although none have been named, regulatory services officer Debbie Bailey said: “Businesses have to pay an annual licence fee and it has been brought to our attention that some premises have fees outstanding. Legislation dictates we must suspend their licence if they are in debt.

“Work is being undertaken at the moment and we are trying to resolve issues with most, but there are several who are not complying.

“In some cases we have found there is historic debt stretching back several years. We are in the process of carrying out visits and I presume 75 per cent of the businesses will no longer be trading, but there are others who are still in business but have not paid their fees.

“It is our job to ascertain why it has been allowed to happen and why they are behind. We are doing as much as we possibly can and will even offer instalment plans to make repayments easier.

“This should not become a big issue in the long-term as we are well on with this, but we may have an initial influx of businesses whose operations will cease due to their unpaid fees in the coming months.”

Fees can range from £100 per year at smaller premises, such as newsagents, while nightclubs can be charged several thousand pounds.

Anyone using a building or part of a building for non-domestic purposes has to pay business rates, with a proportion of the rates collected, together with revenue from council tax payers, government grants and other monies, is used to pay for the services the local authority provides.

Coun Charlie Wraith, chairman of the licensing regulatory board, said: “We have a responsibility to make sure businesses are paying their way and although this is an ongoing matter, it is important to stress just how serious it can be for those who continue to shy away from paying.

“We do not want to put anyone out of business - that is absolutely a last resort - but we have rules to uphold and it has been brought to out attention that some have fees outstanding.

“Officers are looking into this and are trying to resolve the issues which have been brought before them.”

n An update on the clampdown will be given at a meeting at Barnsley Town Hall on April 25.