West Ham still off the hook for £2.3m London Stadium rates bill
West Ham United has come under further fire over its "deal of the century" for the London Stadium after it emerged the club has still not paid a penny in business rates and may never have to stump up for the £2.3 million a year bill.
New documents obtained under a Freedom of Interest request seen by the Press Association reveal that 16 months after West Ham's first game at the former Olympic Stadium, it has still paid nothing towards the property tax while it may not even meet government agency rules to split the bill.
PA revealed earlier this year that West Ham was only set to pay rates on the retail and office space in the 66,000-capacity stadium, leaving owners E20 Stadium - a joint venture between publicly-funded London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Newham Council - to pick up the rest of the bill.
E20 and West Ham United said at the time they were still looking at how rates would be "apportioned" between the two.
It has now emerged the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), the body responsible for setting rates, is still considering if the club's tenancy in the stadium even qualifies to be separately assessed.
In its FoI response, LLDC said "should the VOA be of the opinion that West Ham United's occupation meets the necessary tests of occupation required for separate assessment, following consultation with the ratepayer, any necessary alterations will be made".
The TaxPayers' Alliance said it would be a "slap in the face to taxpayers if this deal means West Ham are exempt from paying anything at all".
The group's chief executive John O'Connell said: "Taxpayers will find it hard to believe that they are still being short-changed from West Ham.
"We have previously called this arrangement the 'deal of the century' for West Ham but that is starting to sound like an understatement."
It comes as tens of thousands of small firms have already been hit with soaring rates under the so-called "staircase tax", where companies with more than one floor in the same building are having to pay rates as if they were on separate premises.
Figures from business rent and rates specialist CVS show the annual tax bill for the London Stadium was £2.1 million for 2016-17 and increased to £2.3 million under the recent tax shake-up.
There had been widespread criticism of West Ham's London Stadium deal, which sees the club pay an annual "usage" fee of just £2.5 million and no rent on its permanent space at the stadium.
It has also been revealed the taxpayer will foot the bill for the costs of policing, stewarding, heating, maintenance of the pitch and even corner flags and nets.
More than 230 pages of legal documents seen by the Press Association show West Ham was granted leases on a "peppercorn" rent retail units to sell the club's merchandise, a box office for ticket sales, offices for the club's day-to-day running, a boardroom, a player's lounge as well as storage space to run the club's online business from.
West Ham has previously defended the deal, saying it only uses the stadium facilities on matchdays, insisting "someone renting the stadium for 25 days a year cannot be responsible for 365 days' running costs".
On the latest revelations, an LLDC spokesman said: "We understand that the VOA is still assessing whether some parts of the London Stadium occupied by West Ham United are separately rateable.
"If they conclude that is the case, then we understand that the assessment will be backdated to the start of occupation from June 2016."