More than 100 local authorities are yet to draw from a £300m fund to provide relief to businesses facing higher rates bills.
The Department of Communities and Local Government has this week published a list showing that 110 local authorities have not rebilled businesses to reflect the £300m discretionary relief scheme announced in the Spring Budget earlier this year.
The list also revealed that 35 local authorities were yet to issue amended bills which cap the annual business rates increase at £50 per month for those losing rate relief as a result of the revaluation - another measure announced in the Spring Budget. Furthermore, 23 councils have not rebilled the government on either measure. See the full list here.
The Association of Convenience Stores has called on the government to take further action to ensure councils distribute the relief properly and issue accurate bills reflecting the monthly cap.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Thousands of local shops saw significant increases in their business rates bills as a result of the revaluation earlier this year. The £300m discretionary scheme is supposed to alleviate some of the pressure of rising business rates costs, but businesses in over 100 local authority areas are still waiting to find out how councils are planning to spend that money. The government needs to apply further pressure to ensure that businesses receive the reliefs that they’re entitled to as soon as possible.
“Local shops trading in rural and otherwise isolated locations are absolutely essential to their communities and many of them are having to delay or cancel investment plans as a result of increases in their rates bills. It is vital that the affected businesses in these areas are issued with accurate bills reflecting the cap announced in the Budget so that they can plan for the future.”
In October, high streets minister Jake Berry spoke to ACS’ annual Heart of the Community conference, urging retailers to contact him directly if local authorities hadn’t issued rate relief properly. At the time, over 150 councils had not issued discretionary relief.
A DCLG spokesman said: “Ministers have been clear that all relief available under these schemes must be awarded to eligible businesses as soon as possible. Following the publication of the list, which allows local businesses to scrutinise how their authority is progressing, we are continuing to encourage councils to take forward their schemes and re-bill their local businesses.”
Ahead of the Autumn Budget on November 22, the ACS has called on the Chancellor to announce new measures which incentivise retailers to invest instead of punishing them through higher rates bills, in addition to further fundamental review of the business rates system.