But this was unlawful according to a European Commission document sent to the UK Government today: the extra benefits above the contraversial £650 million Government loan to BE while it courted bankruptcy contravened competition laws.
At the time campaigners praised West Somerset District Council for refusing the rates deferral but other councils near BE nuclear power stations gave in. A Green Party City Councillor in Lancaster blew the whistle on the secret discussions and now faces disciplinary action by the Council.
Jim Duffy spokesperson for Stop Hinkley said: "Renewable energy operators were put at a disadvantage by this favouritism requested furtively by the nuclear industry whilst council tax payers paid the bill. Luckily West Somerset didn't succumb to Hinkley B's illegal proposition."
The Commission announced a full inquiry into the BE rescue today
Extract from EC letter:
DRAFT LETTER TO BE ADDRESSED TO THE MEMBER STATE
(decision to initiate the formal investigation procedure)
Subject: Unnotified State aid NN 45/03 - United Kingdom
Aid in favour of British Energy plc.
Measure G: Local tax deferrals
(96)A number of local authorities have agreed to defer without interest the
payment of business rates owed to them by BE.
(97)In view of the information forwarded by the UK authorities, these
The Lancaster City Council, in respect of the Heysham plant, for £1 775 240;
The Shepway District Council, in respect of the Dungeness plant, for £578
The Hartlepool Borough Council, in respect of the Hartlepool plant, for £447
-The North Ayrshire Council, in respect of the Hunterston plant, for £735
The East Lothian Council, in respect of the Torness plant, for £765 986.
(98)In total, as much as £4 303 205 rates payments were postponed from
November 2002 to February 2003.
(127)As regards, Measure G, the United Kingdom has not established that the
local authorities have acted as a private creditor. In view of the absence
of interest charged for the deferral, the Commission doubts whether the
deferral can escape being qualified as state aid within the meaning of
Article 87(1) of the EC Treaty.