The owner of historic Nailcote Hall is throwing down the gauntlet to the Government post-pandemic over ‘unfair’ business taxes. Rick Cressman says he’ll go to jail rather than pay up
Spending your 30th anniversary in jail… not what Rick Cressman could have envisaged when he bought historic Nailcote Hall three decades ago. But Rick is adamant that he would rather do time than cough up as a result of what he, and many others in the hospitality industry, say is unfair treatment over tax and business rates by the Government and Inland Revenue during the pandemic.
Despite only just being allowed to reopen from lockdown, Rick is facing big backdated bills that are due to be paid on VAT and National Insurance as well as business rates which will be due at the end of June. “After everything that the hospitality industry has been through – to hell and back – with being forced to be shut for the longest period and having now just opened and desperate to start earning income again, the Government and HMRC are expecting us to pay these massive bills right away,” said Rick.
“I can tell you, if I receive a demand from HMRC, I will be refusing to pay it – and I am prepared to go to jail if needs be for not paying it. If enough like-minded people in our industry say enough is enough and take the same action, the Government will be forced by pressure to change its unfair stance.”
Rick is demanding the waiving of business rates and a new system to be introduced which is based on a business’s turnover rather than the value of the property it occupies. He also wants a Hospitalities Minister appointed who would be dedicated to looking into the huge anomalies across the business sector and to give the industry a proper voice in Government.
The battle for a fairer tax and rating system is the latest in what feels like a never-ending series of battles with local and national officialdom which Rick has faced since he bought Nailcote Hall out of administration in June 1991. The former Warwickshire stately home which dates back to the 17th century, houses a four-star hotel, restaurant and spa and is a top-rated wedding and party venue. It is also famously the long-time home of the British Par Three Championship – the par three equivalent of the Open.
Rick battled for more than a decade to win planning approval to build additional hotel rooms and a clubhouse after being denied by local planners and Government inspectors before the project, conceived in 2000, finally went ahead in 2014. “While the last year can be seen as the hardest with being forced to remain closed for 15 months,” said Rick, “2000 was actually the hardest year to take. First, we were stuffed by local council and Government as we tried to turn this into a successful business, and then later the same year my brother was murdered which was obviously devastating. So, 2000 was the most difficult year I have ever had to endure – but the past year has been hell for the business. But, we’re still here and fighting and we have a lot of business coming up on the tracks.”
Rick is demanding answers from the Government on two key questions. First, why is his, and businesses like his, being expected to pay a much higher business rate than other much bigger operations? The likes of Amazon, for example, pays a much lower rate than Rick.
Second, why is the Government refusing to give businesses more time to pay deferred VAT and National Insurance bills? “They are asking businesses which have been shut the longest to repay in the shortest time,” said Rick. “That can’t be right.”
He added: “Hospitality and high street businesses have had to borrow, borrow, borrow to get through this and we all need more time to rebalance our finances. If not a lot of businesses and the jobs they support will be ruined. We have to make the Government listen and if it won’t, they will have to sue businesses and send people like me to prison. Is Government really prepared to take that step?”
It’s a scenario that Rick could well do without as he celebrates 30 years at Nailcote Hall, although he says ‘celebrate’ isn’t the right word. “We will mark 30 years, but after all that’s happened we won’t be actually celebrating. That will be for another time.”
Among the good news for Rick is that the Par Three tournament, sponsored by Farmfoods, will take place at Nailcote Hall with all the usual golfing and TV and entertainment stars in attendance from 3 to 6 August. While the event won’t be open to public spectators as in previous years, it will be filmed by Sky Sports for later screening.