The UK government has admitted distribution of its £300m small business rate relief package will be delayed until after the upcoming general election.
Through the discretionary support fund, local authorities would be allocated part of a £300m budget to give direct financial support to owners of local firms facing the biggest increases to business rates.
Between March and April, the Department for Communities and Local Government held a public consultation on the small business rate relief scheme to seek views on the final allocation of the fund to local authorities.
A spokesperson for the department confessed the publication of the consultation’s findings will now be delayed until after the general election on 8 June 2017. Distribution of the funds was initially marked for 1 April.
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the scheme among other reforms in the Spring Budget in March to support the most vulnerable small business owners, and the delay of the fund is a setback for those hoping to soften the blow of recent property revaluation.
Commenting on the delay of the fund, Mark Rigby, chief executive of non-domestic rent specialist CVS, said the small business rate relief scheme continued to represent a vital lifeline to owners.
“The relief fund was negotiated and designed to help those shouldering the biggest increases through the revaluation,” he said in a statement.
“For the distribution of that relief to now be delayed is an unhappy consequence of the general election and will cause grave concern to small businesses already worried about the burden they are facing.”
Business rates are revalued every five years, but due to a two-year delay in the recent valuation, new rates have reflected seven years of property price increases. According to CVS research, business owners in England and Wales saw an average rate increase of 8.5 per cent at the start of April.
The fund was part of a government response to concerns from the small business community regarding the impact of business rates revaluation. A Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) study revealed that three-quarters of the organisation’s members saw new rates as the single biggest threat to survival.
The small business rate relief package was announced alongside a special £1,000 discount to support the UK’s pub landlords and £50 cap for owners taken out of the rate relief scheme.
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