Small business owners hit by a hike in business rates are still waiting for the millions of pounds of relief promised to them by the government back in March.
The treasury came under pressure to act after many small companies faced rate rises of up to 3,000% because of delayed changes to the tax rate structure that were enforced in April. It’s estimated that there are nearly 25,000 cases, featuring businesses who lost their small business rate relief which is a discount given to properties below a certain rateable value.
Chancellor Philip Hammond set aside £25 million this year to pay for support as well as a £300 million discretionary hardship fund and a relief scheme for pubs.
The help has failed to reach thousands of small businesses with councils blaming delays on a lack of published government guidance and a wait on software to allow them to automatically check premises and rateable values. The government insists it’s not to blame with the councils not needing to wait for formal guidance.
The Federation of Small Businesses has described the delays as “shambolic”.
The government has now stepped in to impose a deadline of 21st August for companies to provide the councils with the new software.
Head of Businesscomparison.com Philip Brennan comments:
“This process has taken far too long for those small businesses that have been worst affected by the change in business rates. The financial pressures on business owners are immense and this has only added to the anxiety felt by many of them. SMEs contributed a combined annual turnover of £1.8 trillion to the UK economy in 2016. That’s 47% of all private sector turnover in the UK. They do not deserve to be pushed to the bottom of the priority list. In the Conservative manifesto it was said that they are “the party of enterprise and of the entrepreneur” and that they “understand that small businesses are the wellspring of growth.” They need to show this by dealing with this matter promptly. It’s to be hoped that this new deadline for the computer software will be a catalyst for action. It’s up to the councils now to get on with the job.”