Retailers can now apply for the business rates scheme that allows the deferral of 60% of this year’s increase in rate bills. Under the scheme, retailers only have to pay 2% of the 5% increase in business rates following the end of transitional relief and can spread the payment across 2010-2012.

“The business rates deferral scheme will provide real help now to business facing financial pressures in the current climate,” said local government minister Rosie Winterton at the opening of the scheme.

“Letters are already on their way to every ratepayer explaining how to apply for this new scheme, as well as detailing existing help for small businesses that could potentially halve their total bill.”

Retailers can apply for the scheme through their local council. Those who apply can expect to see the deferred reduction the following month.

The scheme was introduced to help businesses survive the economic downturn but was criticised by trade bodies when first announced in March of this year. The Association of Convenience Stores and the British Retail Consortium were both concerned that the staggering of payments would only lead to confusion and that paying off the balance in two year’s time would cause cash-flow problems.