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Exclusive: Reprieve for Mello Mello

Council acts within 24 hours to help business stay open

Written by . Published on September 27th 2012.


Exclusive: Reprieve for Mello Mello

MELLO Mello are to look at restructuring parts of their business in a bid to achieve charitable status, following a meeting with Liverpool's Deputy Mayor yesterday. 

It came within 24 hours of our plea for swift action

It will mean that Mello Mello can continue to operate while they put a new business plan in place and, although there is a long way to go, the immediate threat of closure has abated.

Councillor Paul Brant said the council is fully committed to working with the Slater Street arts organisation to stay open in the restructuring period and “wants to see the service they provide flourish”.

After meeting general manager Rob Longson, Mello have agreed to look at restructuring the arts and culture side of business – in other words everything that isn't the cafe/bar - to become charitable. This would enable mandatory business rate relief to apply on those bits of the organisation, reducing their liability.

In the interim period, it will be supported so that it can remain open.

Mello Mello 4
An online petition attracted 6,000 signatures. 

A council source told Liverpool Confidential: “The issue is that we have to pay a proportion of rates relief to the Government, hence why we have been tightening the eligibility criteria and concentrating on organisations linked to priority services, such as vulnerable adults and children.

 “There is a wider national issue here in that the Government is talking about the importance of social enterprises and there is all sorts of legislation being passed encouraging them, but they still don’t get mandatory rate relief and it is left to the discretion of councils…and we’re having to cut left, right and centre.”

Deputy Mayor Paul Brant said: “Liverpool is a huge champion of the arts and cultural sector and we invest £5 million of funding every year to creative organisations in the city.

Relief

"At the same time, we have had to make some extremely tough budget choices in order to save £141 million over the last two years, with over £50 million to be found over the next two years. This has meant difficult decisions over business rate relief, as we have looked to align applications with the priorities of the council, such as vulnerable adults and children.  As a result, a very small number of organisations have lost out. 

“I fully appreciate that this may be difficult for them and I have therefore asked the Director of Finance and Culture Liverpool to carry out a review and see if there is a different way in which we can help those organisations that we also grant fund. It is possible they could apply for charitable status, which would entitle them to Government funded mandatory rate relief. 

Mello Mello Liverpool 3.Jpg..“Although we do not grant fund Mello Mello, I understand the majority of the business rates is in relation to the bar, and am mindful that there are other licensed premises in the area that do not get business rate relief. Given the competing pressures on the city council, we cannot afford to financially support this part of the business. 

"However, I have met with them to discuss the situation and they are considering restructuring to make much of their activity charitable for which they will be entitled to Government funded rate relief."The Council is committed to working with them to help them over the restructuring period, and wants to see the service they provide flourish.”

Liverpool Confidential yesterday approached an arts funding agency which has agreed to look at Mello Mello's case and work with them to see what community interest grants and other awards may be applicable to its operations.

We will, of course, keep a close eye on the story.

Mello Mello's response

Last night Mello welcomed the swift response and manager Rob Longson issued the following statement to Liverpool Confidential. 



"We met with Councillor Brant today who was keen to illustrate to us the unfortunate and unpopular steps that Liverpool City Council believes it has to take in order to cut its sizeable budget gap.  

Mello Mello LiverpoolMello Mello Liverpool

"It would certainly appear that the worst is yet to come in terms of council cutbacks and that the reasons for this fall firmly at the feet of inexplicable decisions made by central Government.  

"Whilst Cllr Brant was kind enough to take the time to talk to us he explained how the council is unable to reinstate any discretionary rate relief for us.  

"Cllr Brant also keenly stressed that the council does not want Mello Mello to close and has offered us some considered advice regarding the structure of MelloMello CIC which we are now considering as a means of being able to stay in business. 

"We are grateful to have had an opportunity to speak in person and air our case to Cllr Brant; we are similarly grateful to have been given a large-scale indication as to why our relief has been stripped.  

"We remain committed to exploring all possible avenues of survival."

"I'd like to personally stress how massively grateful everyone at Mello Mello is for the overwhelming response and support that has been shown to us and will hopefully continue to be shown to us - so many supporters have offered invaluable advice and everyone has helped to bring a highly contentious issue to light.

"It is important that debate on this issue continues."

You can still register your support and read some compelling reasons to keep Mello Mello alive here

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Tino ShuggaSeptember 27th 2012.

Fair play to the council for a prompt response and a clear explanation of their actions in the light of the difficult decisions that are having to be made regarding public spending.

AnonymousSeptember 27th 2012.

Some things are about more than money. They are about community.

IlovelampSeptember 27th 2012.

What a storm in a tea cup. Better management is all that was needed.

Sj DownesSeptember 27th 2012.

LCC's response reads like nonsense here and feels like a weak smokescreen to me. Compared to the figures they are talking about, the rates relief of £30000 a year to keep open a responsibly managed not for profit CIC - which has such a beneficial and highly visible effect on the community - should be a small price to concede, to display such a good 'advert' for the vibrant and diverse culture of Liverpool within the city centre and city as a whole. They have spent 100x this on fireworks and lavish displays in the last 5 years, which only last hours at a time and go up in smoke!!!! ... nonetheless it is part good that they have acknowledged this particular issue quickly after the response from the public and are working somewhat towards its balance.

AnonymousSeptember 27th 2012.

To be honest, anyone thought that LCC would just roll over and say, OK, we take it all back, would be extremely deluded. These are austere times, but I think that some people in this council do listen and they are looking for a way around it.

Captain HogwashSeptember 27th 2012.

Excellent leadership from the Deputy Mayor: maybe someone should have talked to the Council before the "papers", or is that now *completely* out of fashion? Stand back and watch the unwashed rabble take the credit for this

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Jd MoranSeptember 28th 2012.

As far as I am aware they did speak to the Council before the media. On several occasions.

AnonymousSeptember 28th 2012.

JD: They did not.

Hector BarrantesSeptember 27th 2012.

Good stuff. Everyone should support MelloMello.

Graham GavinSeptember 27th 2012.

hippies win again!!!

Jonathan WalkerSeptember 28th 2012.

LCC are to be congratulated for a swift response, as is this fine publication for a measured and fair original article. Nonetheless, it is once again clear that focussed public pressure has played a significant part in the council's decision to look at better ways of achieving their objectives. It is greatly to be hoped that decisions will now be made to the benefit of all. The fundamental and obvious point is that the social and cultural capital that Mello generates far outstrips £30,000 a year, which is not even to mention the 30 or so people whose employment is directly related to Mello Mello. In the light of this, it is immensely silly and self-defeating to pull the leg out from underneath them, regardless of budgetary pressures.

If Mello was forced to close as a direct result of the decision to remove rates relief, the negative impact of that would outstrip the £24,000 they might receive from a future tenant (assuming that another rate-paying business quickly move in). Is it too much to ask for some strategic vision from the local authority? Mello Mello is proof that you don't need a lot of money if you harness good will and people motivated by a sense of the common good and the desire to create something of beauty...

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