Since the publication of the revised business rate valuations late last year, a range of business groups including ACS have been campaigning to ensure that those hardest hit by the revaluation will be given appropriate relief, and that beyond the revaluation, the rating system will be reviewed so that everyone pays their fair share. This inequity in the rating system was highlighted when it was revealed that while petrol forecourts are seeing their bills rise, some of the biggest internet distribution warehouses are set to see a fall in their rateable values.
Come Budget day, all eyes were on the Chancellor to see what action he would take. When the dust settled, it was clear that Mr Hammond’s plans resulted in a mixed bag for our sector. First the good news there will be a £300m relief fund available for businesses that are seeing significant increases in their rates bills. The fund will not be delivered centrally though, it will be at the discretion of local authorities to distribute relief and it’s up to you, the retailer, to make a case to your local authority for relief.
Looking toward the long term, there was more good news in the form of a commitment from the Chancellor to review the appropriateness of different schemes and look at ways that everyone can pay their fair share in future. However, this comes with a caveat because the Chancellor wouldn’t be drawn on a timescale beyond "before the next revaluation in 2022" so there’s still a lot of work to be done to get this in motion.
The bad news on rates came not in the budget itself, but in documents released by the Department for Communities and Local Government, which detailed the government’s response to concerns about rates appeals. We have been campaigning for months on the issue, specifically the idea that businesses could still lose out even if their appeals are successful, based on whether the valuation is considered to be within the bounds of ’reasonable judgement’, so to find out that the government has fudged its response and tried to sneak in a proposal that is indistinguishable from the one it’s replacing (assessing whether a judgement is reasonable as opposed to reasonable professional judgement) under the radar is extremely disappointing.