Tax & admin · 12 December 2017

Struggling businesses in 46 council areas set to spend Christmas without rates relief

46 local councils have yet to distribute any business rates relief
46 local councils have yet to distribute any business rates relief

The 46 slowest councils in England and Wales in terms of handing out business rates relief have been urged to do so before Christmas.

Responding to the latest figures published by the Department of Communities and Local Government, which lists 46 local UK authorities that haven’t yet distributed rates relief to qualifying businesses, trade body the Federation of Businesses (FSB) has waded in on behalf of struggling small firms.

In a statement, the FSB’s national chairman, Mike Cherry, said: “Before council offices have their parties and close for the festive break, we call on these 46 local councils to do the right thing and help businesses that are struggling this Christmas. Let’s get the 46 down to zero.”

Business rates burden caused six shop closures every day for seven years

Amongst the local councils which haven’t yet offered rates relief to any of their constituent business owners are those with some of the largest rates relief allocations.

For example, Hammersmith and Fulham, Nottingham and Northumberland – three council bodies that have collectively been allocated £7.5m in urgent business rates relief over the next five years – have yet to distribute any relief money to local business.

The call comes nine months after the chancellor, Philip Hammond, gave the go ahead for a £300m business rates hardship fund, in advance of a revaluation which saw huge increases to the business rates bills of thousands of small business owners.

“It’s completely unacceptable that small firms in these areas are being put in jeopardy by this lethargic attitude,” Cherry went on to say.

“It’s now nine months on from the announcement of emergency relief for those most harmed by April’s business rates revaluation. While some councils got on and distributed that help, others have been slower to take action.”

According to research from the FSB, as a result of April’s business rates revaluation one in five small UK business owners considered closing or selling their venture. It is clear that the support promised as part of the business rates relief could be the key difference for the survival of many firms.

Earlier this month, Business Advice revealed that only 400 company owners in the country have so far been able to properly challenge their new business rates bills following April’s revaluation.

Analysis from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), HMRC’s body charged with handling business rates appeals, appeared to conclude that the three-stage “check, challenge, appeal” process for appealing business rates had deliberately been made too complicated to discourage businesses from starting the process.

Autumn Budget 2017: Business rates revaluations to take place every three years

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.