The government has been criticised for delaying the 2015 business rates evaluation for two years.
Announced by communities minister Brandon Lewis as part of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, it was decided that there would be no revaluation of rates until 2017. The Valuation Office Agency will still be obliged to re-value all non-domestic properties every five years to take into account changes in the retail property market.
The minister claimed the delay would be a benefit to businesses. “This decision will avoid local firms and local shops facing unexpected hikes in their business rate bills over the next five years,” he said. “As business rates are linked to inflation, there will be no real-terms increase in rates over this period. This reform will provide certainty for business to plan and invest, supporting local economic growth.”
Next April, business rates are expected to increase by 2.6% following the announcement of September’s RPI. Although not as high as this year’s increase of 5.6%, it still marks yet another cost for retailers, leading to calls for a new way to calculate the rates.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman called for more information on the reasoning behind the delay.
“This unexpected announcement and the claims of ministers that it is a positive move for business should be treated with caution,” he said. “We would like to see the detailed assessment that ministers have made about the likely winners and losers from this delay. Our fear is that this change will mean that retailers who are currently saddled with valuations based on rental valuations from 2008 – the high point of the market before the economic downturn – will have to wait longer for an adjustment downwards in the rate valuation. This is particularly bad news for forecourt retailers who mostly saw dramatic increases in their rates bill in 2010.”
Lowman also questioned the communities minister for downplaying recent increases. “We also take strong exception to the minister characterising the 2012 increase in business rates of 5.6% and 2.6% in 2013 as no ‘real terms’ increase,” he said. “The way rates have been increased every year is deeply damaging to business – retailers have consistently stressed the need for action to stop these unaffordable increases. This statement suggests ministers are not listening.”
British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace echoed these sentiments. “The decision by government to delay the revaluation until 2017 is a real shot in the foot for the retail industry,” she said.