High street rates reform announced with mixed news for UK indies

Independent retailers across the country can look forward to rate relief with the announcement that the Business Rates system is to be reviewed and reformed, however questions still remain about how radical any outcome might be.

The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has been fighting for the reform since 2011, with the announcement now coming as part of the Autumn Statement and the review starting immediately in order for it to be completed by the time of the 2016 Budget.

An extension of small business rate relief and a 50 per cent increase in the smaller property discount were both welcomed, but as CEO Alan Hawkins commented: “The relief, discount and review are all evidence that the government knows there is a real problem to be solved. We will contribute strongly to the process of solving it.”

Having argued for a freeze, the association was disappointed that rates will increase by two per cent in April as per the continued cap, as this still represents an increase.

Bira put forward an outline of a reform package in its June submission to a consultation on the administration of the tax. It argued that as the great majority of small operations pay a small proportion of the tax and that the many reliefs available show that the government knows there is a problem in this area, it should bite the bullet and simply exempt 80 per cent of small premises from paying rates, enabling local officers to revalue larger premises more frequently. The association is involved in new research to fully expose the disadvantages faced by high street operators and has stressed that it’s of vital importance that small businesses across the country engage with the project.

Find out more at Bira.co.uk or email info@bira.co.uk