By Stuart Hicks – director
The business rate system has been the subject of much scrutiny over recent years since the economic crisis. The system has been reviewed by the UK Government and most recently by the Scottish Government. The reviews made recommendations that seek to enhance and reform the business rates system.
The conclusion of all reviews is that this property tax is still an appropriate way to fund local services provided by local government. This is not surprising when you consider that this tax is one of the most stable, cost efficient and reliable of all taxes. But there is still criticism of the system by business. Is this surprising when more than 100 local authorities have yet to deliver business rate relief schemes to local businesses, according to a report released by the Government – and the list includes several LA’s in the North West unfortunately.
In the March Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged special measures to help the most vulnerable companies survive the hikes in business rates following the delayed Revaluation that kicked in on April 1, 2017. 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 list includes: Manchester, Salford, St Helen’s, Bury and Warrington as not having confirmed to the DCLG that they have begun rebilling and implementing the three business rates relief schemes announced at Spring Budget 2017 including:
1. Supporting Small Business
2. Discretionary Scheme
3. Support for Pubs
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.
The inaction certainly isn’t helping SMEs and local retailers trading in rural and other isolated locations, with many of them reported as having to delay or cancel investment plans as a result of increases in their non-domestic rates bills.
A DCLG spokesman said that Ministers have been clear that all relief available under these schemes must be awarded to eligible businesses as soon as possible. Is it time to simplify the system and stop the continual tinkering with the rating system with complex schemes of relief and just reduce the overall burden of the tax?
The publication of the list now allows local businesses to scrutinise how their authority is progressing – a list of shame perhaps to deflect criticism from the Government ahead of the Budget next Wednesday?
The full list of can be seen here: