BA calls for 'urgent' action on business rate relief delays

BA calls for 'urgent' action on business rate relief delays

More than 100 local authorities have yet to deliver business rate relief to local businesses, it has been revealed.

In the March Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged special measures to help the most vulnerable companies survive the hikes to the business rates - a tax on non-residential properties based on what could be charged in annual rents (rateable value). However according to a list published this week by the Department of Communities and Local Government, 110 local authorities have not sent through the help to businesses.

The Booksellers Association (BA) has called on the government to take further action to ensure that local authorities distribute rate relief.

Giles Clifton, head of corporate affairs, said it is "very disappointing" to see that there are still delays to the delivery of the relief, and has urged local authorities to sort the delays "urgently".

“The BA has welcomed some positive steps put forward by the government in fixing a broken business rates system that is a drag on innovation and the UK’s High Streets. Local authorities must now act. Any delays need to be sorted urgently, and a full review of the business rates system put in place. This government must put in place a system for the 21st century that does not concede such an inbuilt advantage to online against offline or large against small. Within this context the commitment given in the budget this year to review the Digital Economy during the next five years is vital."

The list also revealed that 36 local authorities were yet to issue amended bills which cap the annual business rates increase for those losing small business rate relief or rural rate relief as a result of the revaluation, another measure announced in the Spring Budget.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “Local shops trading in rural and otherwise isolated locations are absolutely essential to their communities and many of them are having to delay or cancel investment plans as a result of increases in their rates bills. It is vital that the affected businesses in these areas are issued with accurate bills reflecting the cap announced in the Budget so that they can plan for the future.”

A DCLG spokesman said: “Ministers have been clear that all relief available under these schemes must be awarded to eligible businesses as soon as possible. Following the publication of the list, which allows local businesses to scrutinise how their authority is progressing, we are continuing to encourage councils to take forward their schemes and re-bill their local businesses.”

It was reported last week that Hammond could be set to scrap plans to raise business rates by 3.9% next April, following intense lobbying from business groups.

The business rate rise is currently pegged to the retail prices index of inflation, but the Times has reported that Hammond is poised to use the lower consumer prices index, which stands at 3%.