When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
People’s Supermarket may face court over unpaid tax
THE People’s Supermarket has been hit with another financial blow over unpaid business rates.
The Cowley Road co-operative missed its deadline to pay its rates to Oxford City Council for August and September.
The council has now told it it must pay the full balance on the rest of its rates for the year or potentially face court action.
It comes as the directors met insolvency practioners and were advised to continue running on a volunteer-led only basis.
Nine paid members of staff have been made redundant, including seven who were on zero- hours contracts and two part-time employees.
The co-operative received a letter from the city council stating that because it had missed the deadline to pay August’s sum it would have to stump up the rates for the rest of the financial year – a total of £5,024.
Co-director Anton Saberimuttu said it paid August’s £628 instalment yesterday but the one due for September has not been paid.
A council spokeswoman could not confirm if it had received the August payment last night.
If the co-operative doesn’t pay the outstanding amount today it could face prosecution.
Last month the Oxford Mail revealed that the co-operative, which has around 600 members, was facing closure unless it raised £20,000 by next month because of cash problems. To date it has raised just £1,850.
This week Mr Saberimuttu said it currently had debts of more than £50,000 and owed approximately £24,500 of that to members of the co-operative.
Board member Nena Parkes said daily takings at the co-operative had dropped from £1,200 in May to between £400 and £600 a day last month, due to a decrease in footfall over the summer holidays.
However, she said she wasn’t worried about it facing court action and added: “If we’re finished and go into administration then nobody gets any money.
“All we can do is hope and slowly pay back our debts.”
Mr Saberimuttu, co-director of The People’s Supermarket, said: “There is no slack from the council. We’re talking about a business here which may or may not survive.”
He added that the supermarket could not afford to pay the full amount as it would put further pressure on its future.
The supermarket only paid off last year’s business rates in May after the council offered it an extended deadline.
It came to an arrangement with the authority to start paying this year’s business rate in monthly instalments from July.
A spokeswoman for Oxford City Council said: “When businesses do not pay, they are issued with a reminder notice and it states clearly that if you do not pay all your instalments on time, you will lose the right to pay by instalments and the balance outstanding for the period of your original bill will become due in one payment.”
Henry Cullen, 26, co-founder of The Library Pub in Cowley Road, who shops at The People’s Supermarket, said: “It would be good if the council could give us a break. I’m a business owner, but I think it’s a good supermarket and it would be a shame to lose it.”
The not-for-profit business opened last July.
It costs £12 a year to be a member of the co-operative which allows people to have their say in its development.
Members get a 10 per cent discount on food if they volunteer for a four-hour shift every four weeks.