WEST Somerset Councillors plan to fight back against central Government as a business rates valuation for Hinkley Point B again threatens the stability of the cash-strapped council.

The councillors are planning to lobby Government as the Valuation Office Agency has reviewed nationally and put a rateable value of £29.5m on Hinkley B, less than two years after EDF reduced the value of the station from £12m to just over £8m.

The appeal punctured a black hole into West Somerset Council’s finances as it had to pay £1.6m from its reserves to cover part of the refund – and lost £315,000 a year in business rates funding.

The new valuation, due to come into effect in April next year, could trigger another appeal by EDF, leading to further financial uncertainty for the council that is already facing serious funding challenges.

The leader of West Somerset Council, Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew, and deputy leader, Cllr Mandy Chilcott, met Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, to enlist his support in making approaches to the Government and the VOA.

According to figures, the average of all authority changes in valuation is 6.5 per cent - but for West Somerset it is 84.1 per cent, the largest in the country - and the massive hike is virtually all down to the revaluation of Hinkley B.

The council is urgently seeking clarity from the VOA and also wants safeguards from the Government.

Cllr Trollope-Bellew said: “The business rates system is extremely complex. On the face of it the substantial increase in the valuation of Hinkley B should be good news for the council and provide us with extra funding at a time when we really need it.

“However, we know to our cost that valuation appeals can be successful and this presents us with significant uncertainty as we continue to budget for the future.

"I would like to make it abundantly clear that we have no criticism of EDF – it is the system that is causing the problems.”

Initial indications of how the new valuation will impact on the Council’s share of business rates are a concern. It is anticipated the 'Tariff' the Council pays will increase by £2.7m, to £5.8m per year.

“However, as we need to make a prudent provision for a likely appeal, the Council is forecasting that its share of business rates under the funding system next year will not cover this significant increase in costs.

The 'safety net' in the system will cover the majority of this cost but it will mean our funding overall is expected to reduce by a further £330,000 per year – placing additional pressure on our finances,” added Cllr Trollope-Bellew.

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger described the reevaluation figure as 'farcical'.

"I genuinely don't understand how it can have jumped this much in 18 months since it was last evaluated," Mr Liddell-Grainger said.

"But I think it is more of a cock-up than a conspiracy. I will work with the council and government to find out why this has happened and try and get it dropped back the original rating."

A spokesman for EDF Energy said: "Hinkley Point B power station makes a major contribution to the local economy through its spending on services and jobs as well as local and national tax.

“We understand the concerns of the local authority and as they have stated, the issues they are concerned about are as a result of the system that is in place for the distribution of business rates and not as a result of our activities relating to business rates (which includes a legitimate right of appeal if required).

“We can confirm, however, that we are in discussions with the Valuation Office Agency but are not able to provide any further information so as not to prejudice these discussions."