House of Commons, Adjournment Debate
Reforming the business rates system for small
retail business (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Con, The Cotswolds)
• In November 2016 we welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement in the Autumn Statement that the threshold for small business rate relief would be doubled from £6,000 to £12,000 from April 2017. Unfortunately, however, it soon became clear that the benefits of the increased threshold were outweighed by revaluation plans that disproportionately affect rural businesses. Small businesses across the country were hit with business rate rises, up to as much as 300 per cent in some cases.
• We were particularly concerned by the impact the revaluation proposals would have on riding centres. Figures from the British Horse Society show that some would see their business rates increase by up to 300 per cent and that five out of six riding schools would not qualify for small business rate relief. There was no doubt that the flawed revaluation proposals, brought forward by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), severely risked undermining the equestrian sector.
• What is particularly perverse about the proposed changes is that many riding centres have been encouraged by the Government through grants to expand their physical footprint and facilities to meet customers’ expectations. Under the revaluation proposals all of these new facilities will be subject to increased business rates and the VOA appears to be blind to the fact that there are sound animal welfare reasons why riding centres and livery yards take up the space they do. It is unfair for them to be punished for promoting high animal welfare standards by following strict guidelines.
Budget Measures March 2017:
• £435 million of further support for businesses facing significant increases in business rates
➢ support for small businesses losing Small Business Rate Relief to cap rate rises to £50 a month (£600 per annum)
➢ £300 million of discretionary relief to English local authorities to allow them to provide support to individual hard cases in their local area
➢ £1,000 business rate discount for public houses with a rateable value of up to £100,000
Budget Measures November 2017:
• Rate relief for pubs – Continue the £1,000 business rate discount for public houses with
a rateable value of up to £100,000.
• Valuation assessments – Increase the frequency of Valuations Office Agency (VOA)
revaluations of non-domestic properties to every three years following the next revaluation,
currently due in 2022.
• Business rates retention – Continue to pilot additional business rates retention for
councils across England.
Countryside Alliance Position:
• The Countryside Alliance welcomes the proposals announced in the Budgets last year to
provide additional support to small businesses to the tune of £435 million. We have seen
many small businesses across the country hit with business rate rises, up to as much as
300 per cent. It is therefore welcome that the Government has listened to the hardship
these rate rises would have on small businesses. We welcome the package of measures
proposed and hope that the £50 a month cap on rate rises and the £300 million
discretionary relief fund will help to ensure that many rural businesses can continue to
• However, the measures outlined in the last two Budgets are only a temporary solution and
do not address the long-term problem of business rates. Businesses in rural areas play an
important part of the economy so we must have a system which enables them to compete
fairly with web-based businesses. We also welcome the recognition from Government of
the role that pubs play in communities. A £1,000 discount for those with a rateable value
below £100,000 will ensure that these important social hubs can survive.
• We need long term solutions to ensure that all small businesses in rural areas remain
viable rather than piecemeal ad hoc measures. This is why we are calling for a full-scale
review of business rates to ensure we have a system which enables rural businesses to
compete fairly with those online. Businesses need long term certainty if they are to be able
to invest and plan for the future.
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