Two months after the Budget and SMEs are still waiting for business rate relief

Back in April Steven Glicher accountants brought you the news that the government’s £300 million business rates relief package to cap the increase in business rates for SMEs most at risk had been put on hold after the calling of a snap general election. The Chancellor announced that because an election had been called he was not in a position to prescribe how the extra funding to help SMEs cope with the sharp rises in business rates was to be applied, and that responsibility lay with the next elected government. However, in spite of that statement, SMEs still hoped that in the interim period, some transitional rates’ relief funding might have trickled down to those worst affected.

Under the transitional arrangements SMEs losing small business rate relief – a discount awarded to firms with properties below a specified rateable value – were promised that they would not see their business rate bills rise by more than £50 a month. To that end, the Government pledged £25m in the March Budget to provide this protection.

Local Authorities were told they could lawfully adjust business rates bills to protect vulnerable SMEs. Many local councils have since approached government for the necessary guidance on the matter. However, after failing to get the necessary reassurances, it would now appear that Local Authorities have been unwilling to honour that government initiative without a firm guarantee from Whitehall that the government will cover the costs of the transitional arrangements.

Mark Rigby, chief executive of business rent and rates specialists CVS, who criticised the government some weeks ago for the delay in relief funding, has now called for an urgent dialogue between government and Local Authorities so that the problem can be immediately addresses, stating:

“A common sense approach here is needed. The money to help those most in need is coming from the Government, and there is no reason why revised tax demands shouldn’t have been sent out by local councils by now.”

“These delays are simply causing panic, confusion and alarm for [SMEs].”

In the last few days the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has sent out clarification and has issued the required paperwork to all local authority chief financial officers across England. A spokesperson for the DCLG confirmed:

“We have also published guidance on the additional relief available to support [SMEs] and have encouraged local authorities to inform businesses that are eligible as soon as possible.”

If you’d like further information on business rates or would like more detailed information on the Chancellor’s business rates’ relief package, contact Steven Glicher accountants on 0161 405 8007 or email info@stevenglicher.co.uk

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