PRIVATE schools have come under fire for getting discounts in business taxes – with a Worcestershire politician asking them to “stop hiding behind their charitable status”.

Councillor Richard Udall says the Royal Grammar School, the King’s School and St Mary’s Worcester have saved £338,000 in the last year by getting an automatic 80 per cent business rate relief.

Deputy Labour group leader Coun Udall has called on the Conservative leadership to ask them to pay higher rates.

During a debate over the issue at a full council meeting, Councillor Jane Potter, the cabinet member for education, hit back by saying the schools contribute £35 million to the county’s economy.

Coun Udall said: “These schools charge parents up to £11,370 a year for a child to attend school. They are only available to the very wealthiest people in society, but claim to be charities in order to receive this massive subsidy from the taxpayer.”

He said they should “pay their taxes” and asked Coun Potter to confirm if they got support from County Hall.

Coun Potter said: “Some 3,000 pupils go to these schools, saving the taxpayer £10.5 million it would otherwise cost to educate them.

“They bring over £35 million into the county’s economy, provide jobs for local people, and they are some of the best schools in the country. I’d actually like to thank them – £338,000 is a bargain for what they actually provide.”

After the meeting the King’s School produced a statement defending their record.

It read: “Any taxation benefits conferred by independent schools by virtue of their charitable status are more than outweighed by the net financial contribution to the taxpayer and the public good.”

It also said sports facilities are used by the local community and Bishop Perowne CE College, that they contribute to music, drama and arts, and that businesses benefit from the daily influx of parents and pupils to the city.

The Royal Grammar School also produced a defence, saying it employs 250 people and is a “major contributor” to the economy.

A statement from headteacher Andy Rattue said: “Our parents pay school fees out of taxed income and thus save Worcestershire County Council the cost of educating 1,200 children. In other words, by my estimate, RGS parents are actually saving the local authority £7.5 million per year by choosing to pay for their children’s education.”