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Business rates support still withheld

13th October 2021

In March, the Government sought to deal with the incredible backlog of business rates appeals, that had been submitted since the pandemic began, by creating a £1.5 billion support scheme that could be quickly and fairly disseminated by local authorities amongst the appealing businesses across the UK.

It was recently confirmed, by ratings advisory firm Altus Group, that none of the 170,000 businesses who had had their appeals quashed had yet received money through this scheme.

When it was first announced by the Government, this initiative was described as “the fastest and fairest way of getting support to businesses”.

This pot was initially labelled as “wholly inadequate” as it would only cover a fraction of the estimated £5 billion worth of challenged business rates. However, it seems that even this has not been used to combat the struggle endured by commercial tenants and landlords.

Indeed, whereas retail, leisure and hospitality firms received more than £16 billion in relief, over 400,000 office occupiers were expected to pay their business rates in full.

Robert Hayton, UK President of Altus Group, described the appeals as being “kicked into the long grass” whilst resources were diverted to deal with the 2023 revaluation of rates. He described this as the Valuation Office Agency “forcing businesses to continue to suffer artificially high rates bills.”

The Government has since stated that the pot will only be made available once a bill banning pandemic appeals receives Royal Assent in a few months’ time. It is therefore hoped that the Autumn Budget will set specific targets for the VOA to try to clear this backlog through the dissemination of funds from the pot.

This news comes shortly after various retailers and property firms wrote an open letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, demanding that the Government cut the Uniform Business Rate substantially and “overhaul the business rates system” in order to give UK high streets and town centres a chance to survive.

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