Thousands of small businesses still waiting for rate relief three months after Government budget promise

In March’s budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled measures to cushion the blow after businesses complained that they faced crippling increases

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 30 May 2017 12:05 BST
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The current delay is understood to be partly due to the fact that new bills had already been printed before the u-turn was announced
The current delay is understood to be partly due to the fact that new bills had already been printed before the u-turn was announced (Getty)

Thousands of small businesses hit by punishing rate hikes are still waiting almost three months after the Government pledged to provide financial support.

Businesses across the country saw the rates they pay to the Government go up after properties were revalued last year for the first time in seven years. Business rates are a tax based on the rental value of a property.

In March’s budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled a series of measures to cushion the blow after some businesses complained that they faced rates going up by many multiples.

Mr Hammond promised that those who lost small business rate relief, which applies to firms with property worth less than a certain threshold, would not be handed rate rises of more than £50 per month.

However, several small businesses have told the BBC they have received no help.

Jane Antoniades, who runs a florist in Whitstable said she faced a rates increase of more than three times during a five year period. She has yet to receive any relief on her current bill, almost three months after Mr Hammond’s announcement.

“So far I've had to pay £437.08 per month, instead of just over £200. It's a huge difference,” she told the BBC.

”We haven't got the capacity to pay this extra money. It's going to have a real impact on our business if we can't claw this money back soon and start paying the right amount,“ Ms Antoniades said.

The Government had said that there would be a delay in processing the rate relief because of the snap general election. But last month, communities secretary Sajid Javid announced a u-turn on that decision.

The current delay is understood to be partly due to the fact that new bills had already been printed before the u-turn was announced.

Councils are also uncertain as to whether they will receive the money back from Whitehall if they process payments to businesses that include the relief.

London Borough of Tower Hamlets said the council was waiting for the government to confirm the funding regulations for the scheme. "When they do, we will be able to allocate funds to eligible businesses," a spokesperson said.

A spokesman for Darlington Borough Council said further guidance as well as a systems upgrade were needed, which will not happen until after the general election.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said: "We have published guidance on the additional relief available to support small businesses and have encouraged local authorities to inform businesses that are eligible as soon as possible."

Mark Rigby, chief executive of business rates specialists CVS, said: "A common sense approach here is needed. The money to help those most in need is coming from Government and there is no reason why revised tax demands shouldn't have been sent out by local Councils by now. These delays are simply causing panic, confusion and alarm for small firms."

CVS said the Government has now written to councils with the necessary paperwork meaning that relief should finally begin to flow.

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