Procurement ยท 26 April 2017

Local councils gain access to rate relief fund following government U-turn

Rate relief fund
Under the scheme, local councils will be able to provide financial support to local business owners

The upcoming general election will not delay distribution of the ?300m business rate relief fund for vulnerable firms, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has confirmed.

As reported by Business Advice this week, it was feared that results of a public consultation on the discretionary relief scheme would have to await the approval of the next government, meaning allocation of funds to local authorities would be stalled until after the general election in June.

According to an updated statement on the DCLG website, final allocation of the rate relief fund will follow the draft proposals in the initial consultation.?

Clarifying the status of the fund, communities secretary Sajid Javid said in the House of Commons there would be ?absolutely no delay because of the election?.

?It?s going ahead, exactly as planned. Councils are free to start using the scheme and helping local businesses,? Javid told MPs.

A DCLG spokesperson also advised councils to start establishing schemes and distribute funds to local firms, and to ?claim the funding from DCLG as soon as schemes are up and running?.

The rate relief fund was initially revealed by Philip Hammond as part of the chancellor?s budget announcements. As part as a series of measures to protect against business rate increases, local councils would have access to a ?300m fund to support owners facing the greatest rate increases.?

Business rent and rates specialist CVS was among the first to speak out against the potential hiatus of the rate relief fund. Chief executive Mark Rigby welcomed Javid?s announcement and urged councils to begin supporting local business owners.

?I am heartened that the DCLG has sought to clarify its stance over this important and much needed initiative,? he said in a statement.

?I would now urge councils across England to expedite the distribution of this relief to those firms hardest hit by the revaluation, with business rates bills having already been sent out and the first tax instalment having been collected.?

Britain?s high streets are among the most under threat from new business rates.?We want to hear your views on the challenges facing high street retailers, so please take two minutes to complete our High Streets Initiative survey and make a difference.

Read our guide to rental agreements and business rates liability

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.