Chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement today that the government will make available £435m to support businesses affected by the business rates relief revaluation has been dismissed as not enough by the retail industry.
Instead of introducing short-term relief measures, the government should focus on a serious reform of the business rates system, leading retail commentators said.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, described the £435m promised today as a “drop in the ocean” compared against the £25bn raised each year through business rates. ““We hope that the relief measures will help some of those businesses hardest hit by the revaluation, albeit only temporarily. However, more short-term relief measures continue to add complexity to an already impenetrable system. This is yet another sticking plaster on a chronically ill patient – an unsustainable property tax higher here than anywhere in the developed world.”
The government said today it’s £435m package meant “no small business that is coming out of small business rates relief will pay more than £600 more in business rates this year than they did in 2016-17”.
It added funding for local authorities would allow them to provide £300m of “discretionary relief to provide help to businesses most affected by the revaluation”.
In addition, pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000 would be able to claim a £1,000 business rates discount for one year.
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, welcomed the £300m discretionary fund but said it was disappointed no targeted relief would be made available to petrol forecourts “which are some of the hardest hit businesses as a result of the revaluation, but will support these stores in making a case to their local authorities for much needed help.”
He also stressed relief packages could not replace more substantial reform of the business rates system. “We, along with our business groups, have repeatedly called for a proper fundamental review of the rates system to ensure that everyone pays their fair share,” he said
“Businesses like rural petrol stations and convenience stores with cash machines providing an essential service to their communities should not be paying over the odds while internet distribution warehouses enjoy a decrease in their rates bills. We are disappointed that the government is not addressing these issues now, meaning the current inequities in the system will remain.”