The business rates system is “broken” and needs to be reformed for the benefit of councils and businesses alike, according to a report from the treasury committee released today.
It revealed that the tax generated £31bn in the UK in the last financial year, with revenues rising faster than inflation.
MPs also found councils have applied business rates reliefs inconsistently and urged the government to create a “single comprehensive” guide on how they should operate.
The report acknowledged the government’s plan to increase councils’ retention of business rates from 50% to 75% – but this move, which was meant to start in April 2020, has already been pushed back by a year.
“Any reform of the system should have particular regard both to the need to maintain the total income for local authorities, and to keep the link between individual authorities and the current and potential new businesses in their areas,” it said.
Alison McGovern, Treasury committee’s lead member of the inquiry, said: “It’s abundantly clear that the current business rates system is broken. The tax represents an increasing burden on businesses, particularly those with a physical high street presence struggling to remain competitive.”
Commenting on previous attempts to improve the business rates system, she said: “Odd reliefs here and there are nothing more than sticking plasters to a system in urgent need of reform.”
The committee has heard arguments for alternatives to business rates, such as a ‘land value’ tax – a levy on the land a property exists on rather than the property itself. Another suggestion has been to have online sales levies as the system places a “disproportionate burden” on bricks-and-mortar high street shops compared to online businesses.
However, McGovern said that alternatives had not been “sufficiently modelled to examine who would be the winners and losers of any change.”
The report concluded that it should not be up to “external stakeholders” to develop and evaluate detailed proposals for a new system. Instead, the government should prepare a consultation on the business rates system by the next Spring Statement, it said. …”
Source:Public Finance (pay wall)
“One in 10 shops now empty as number reaches four-year high”
“The number of empty shops in town centres has reached its highest level since 2015, figures have shown.
The national vacancy rate was 10.3% in July, the highest since January 2015, according to the BRC (British Retail Consortium)-Springboard footfall and vacancies monitor.
Footfall also fell by 1.9% last month, marking the worst decline for July since 2012.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said retailers had faced a “challenging environment”.
“High streets and town centres play an important part in our local communities, and we should be concerned by the rise in empty store fronts,” she said.
The figures showed that high street footfall declined by 2.7% last month, while footfall at shopping centres fell by 3.1%. …”
NHS: Councils vow to fight £2.35bn business-rates court challenge
“The Local Government Association (LGA) will support 45 councils defending a challenge to business rates levied on NHS hospital properties that could see £2.35bn clawed back and set a significant precedent.
Consultants advising a group of 17 NHS trusts challenging the business rates on their properties said this week that a High Court trial has now been set for a test case in which Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the others will seek 80% relief on its rates bill.
The move aims to gain the same charitable-status rates relief enjoyed by many private healthcare operators and, according to property firm Altus Group, would see the affected trusts get mandatory relief on their business rates backdated to April 2010 – costing town halls and the government around £2.35bn.
Data released by Altus ranked the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, as the biggest single source of business rates payments to any council affected by the challenge.
It said the hospital would pay £9.16m in business rates in the current financial year to Tower Hamlets Council in London.
Altus said the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and Bristol’s Southmead Hospital will pay £7.15m and £5.99m respectively to their local collecting authorities.
NHS Trusts – and other organisations – have the right to challenge their business rate assessments if they believe they are not fair and correct.
However, formal advice pre-dating the 2017 revaluation suggested trusts are not entitled to relief under Section 47 of the Local government Finance Act 1988 as they were not considered charitable organisations but public-sector funded organisations with boards of directors and rather than trustees.
The LGA, which is the lobby group that represents the vast majority of English councils, said it would back town halls involved in the November challenge on that basis.
“The LGA is supporting member councils who have received applications for mandatory relief from business rates on behalf of a number of NHS trusts and are working with them,” it said.
“We have sought legal advice from counsel.
“We believe that NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts are not charities, and that the applications for rate relief are therefore unfounded.”
Altus Group said around one in four private hospitals are registered as charities – and benefit from the 80% mandatory business rates relief.
It said Nuffield Health, is the UK’s third largest charity by income.
Altus head of UK business rates Robert Hayton said many people would consider it “iniquitous” that NHS hospitals were treated like businesses and called on the government to end the dispute before the Derby-led case came to trial.
“If the case was successful it risks setting a precedent for other deserving public services with the significant loss in revenue which goes to fund essential public services having to shift to businesses at the next revenue neutral revaluation in 2021 at a time when the tax burden is already far too high,” he said.
The court case is scheduled for trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in the week commencing 4 November.”
Councils vow to fight £2.35bn business-rates court challenge
“Ministry repeats business rates blunder despite tightened oversight”
“The government has been left red-faced – and potentially £15m out of pocket – by repeating an error which last year cost it £36m and prompted major reforms to its administration of local government finance.
Last year, the government issued a correction to its top-ups and tariffs formula, after it led to a number of business rate pilots receiving more grant than they were entitled to.
Last week, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government permanent secretary Melanie Dawes wrote to the National Audit Office (NAO) admitting that the incorrect formula was used again this year after officials failed to update it.
In her letter to Sir Amyas Morse, comptroller and auditor general at the NAO, Dawes said: “We are looking into the precise circumstances of how this happened.
“However, it originated from a failure to correct the guidance following last year’s error, rather than a new mistake in our computations.”
The error, which exaggerates the forecast benefit of participating in a pilot, appeared in the formula used to calculate section 31 grant payments to business rates pilots in the ministry’s NNDR1 guidance note.
Dawes admitted some local authorities – especially those participating in a pilot for the first time this year – may have based some element of their budget planning on the incorrect formula.
She said: “Given that the financial year has already started, and particularly since the error in the guidance repeats the same mistake as last year, the secretary of state has exceptionally decided to offer a goodwill payment to those councils who used the incorrect guidance for their financial planning in 2019-20, and where the consequences of doing so could be more difficult to mitigate.”
The cost of the payments is expected to be up to £15m, according to the permanent secretary’s letter.
Pilot authorities have been asked to contact the department by 21 June if they think they would qualify for a payment.
In her letter, Dawes said that the sums involved represent the equivalent of less than 0.2% of spending power for those affected.
Last year, the government admitted that the mistake led to 27 local authorities and the Greater London Authority being over-compensated by £36m in 2018/19.
At that time, former communities secretary Sajid Javid issued a direction to allow the department to ignore the rules and allow councils to keep the cash.
In a statement to Parliament, Javid said officials would “use the corrected methodology to calculate the Section 31 grant compensation due to authorities”.
However, the department omitted to update the original guidance note, and the error was repeated in this year’s NNDR1 form, which was issued to local authorities on 17 December.
The problem came to light when the correct figures for 2019/20 were issued to pilot local authorities in late April.
The repeat of the mistake is doubly embarrassing for the government because it carried out a thorough review of governance processes relating to business rates following the original incident. …”
Ministry repeats business rates blunder despite tightened oversight
High Street trading German-style
James Timpson, chief executive of Timpson Group:
“I have just got back from Germany, where I’ve been looking for ideas to bring back to Timpson shops in this country. Germany is a good source of inspiration because the weather there is similar to ours — it rains a lot. And rain is good for cobblers. The more it rains, the more shoes wear out. If we were to open in Dubai, I doubt we would do well.
The German retail scene is different from what I see when I travel around Britain, visiting more than 1,000 of our shops each year. There were hardly any vacant sites over there, no closing-down sales — and the high streets and shopping centres were busy. I’m sure the landlords are also doing well.
The Germans are just behind us in the amount they buy online, and they have many of the same brands as our high streets. The problem in Britain is that we have way too many shops — far more than in Germany.
My company rents 95% of its shops from landlords whose aim is to get us to pay the highest rent possible. My fantastic property team battle to find evidence to prove that rents should be lower. We were on the losing side of this cat-and-mouse game for years after I joined the business in 1995. In the past four years, however, the tide has turned.
In the 40 lease renewals we have completed in the past three months, the rents have come down by an average 9.6% — and that doesn’t take into account the generous rent-free periods we’ve also pocketed. There are some shops where the rents have come down by 80%, and more than a dozen where we pay no rent at all.
You will find many retailers complaining about high rents, but you will find even more complaining about high business rates.
When I became chief executive, in 2002, I started a discipline I still abide by today, and still hate doing just as much. I go through the profit-and-loss accounts for every one of our 2,100 shops every month, looking for errors and bad performance. While I’m no accountant, it’s amazing what you can learn.
The biggest change over this time has been how much the rates bill — the amount we pay local authorities as a property tax — has gone up (business rates brought in £25bn for the government in England last year).
The rule of thumb used to be that rates made up 30% of the rent. The figure is now 44% and growing. You can see why many retailers find this difficult to afford and difficult to understand. With online shopping growing, more out-of-town retail parks popping up and consumer sentiment weak, retailers are closing shops at an alarming rate.
However, I don’t think rates are the real problem — it’s rents.
Rates are based on the value of the property. If that goes up, the rates go up. It can take some time for the figure to reflect the true value of the building — and years to be adjusted to a fair level. The lag is the problem.
The Louis Vuitton shop on London’s Bond Street saw its annual rates bill soar from £3.9m to £8.5m a couple of years ago — up 118%. The nearby Chanel shop suffered a 135% increase. The rents rose so steeply because the value of the buildings they trade from had also gone up dramatically. These prized assets come with big bills.
Because of the lag in assessing what each property is worth, many in my chain have been overpaying rates for some years. In essence, Timpson shops in less glamorous locations have been subsidising global designer brands such as Chanel. While we never look for pity, we do like to play a fair game.
Now, on to rents. As they come down, we are seeing a drop in the rates we pay. Landlords are becoming more astute in recognising that it’s often better to take a reduced rent than to receive no rent at all and be forced to pick up an “empty rates” bill on top. This process takes years to unwind — up to 10. Most leases we sign run for 10 years, with a break clause at five. Only at these two points can we challenge the landlord to get the rent down. We still don’t win them all — the rent in Nantwich went up last week!
So retailers shouldn’t worry about the rates, which they can’t control, and concentrate instead on battling with landlords to get the lowest possible rent. This will, in time, lead to lower rates.
I’m proud of the amount we pay in rates (£8.6m last year, against a rent bill of £19.3m). This money pays for our customers to drive on roads to get to the shops, for our sick colleagues to go to hospital, and for schools to educate our children.
While we may not like paying too much, our rates go a long way to help the communities who shop with us. Other retailers should think the same way.”
Source:Sunday Times (pay wall)
Small businesses accuse government of failing them
“Theresa May’s Government today stands accused of failing to back small businesses, in a report due to be launched by Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
A damning poll reveals three in five people think the Tories are letting down the army of small firms which are vital to the economy and town centres.
The findings come from a YouGov survey of 1,644 adults for the Centre for Policy Studies think tank, which was founded by Margaret Thatcher.
It revealed 60% of people believed the Government “is not on the side of small business”, with just 14% disagreeing. …
This report shows how bureaucracy and paperwork are stifling the growth of our small businesses and offers a series of compelling ideas for how Government can roll back the tide and show that the Conservatives are backing entrepreneurs.”
Bad news for councils on business rates and empty properties
“Councils may be left unable to claim some £10m in business rates after Rossendale Borough Council lost a test case in the Court of Appeal over empty properties.
The case arose over property owners who lease unoccupied premises to another company which then becomes liable for business rates. The second company is then either voluntarily liquidated or struck off without liability for rates returning to the first company. …”
“Ministers urged to provide rescue package for ailing high streets”
“The government should consider taxing online sales, deliveries or packaging and cutting property taxes for retailers as part of a package to help revive the UK’s ailing high streets, according to an influential group of MPs.
In a report published on Thursday, the housing communities and local government committee says local authorities need more help, including extra cash, to redevelop town centres. It also suggests an overhaul of planning regulations, including scrapping rules that allow developers to turn offices into flats without special permission.
Clive Betts MP, the chair of the committee, said it was likely that “the heyday of the high street primarily as a retail hub is at an end”. However, he added: “This need not be its death knell. Local authorities must get to grips with the fact that their town centres need to change; they need to innovate, setting out a long-term strategy for renewal, reconfiguring the town centre and finding new ways of using buildings and encouraging new independent retailers.”
Betts said dated planning policies and unfair business rates, which are a tax based on the value of property occupied by a business, were “stacking the odds against businesses with a high street presence and this must end”. …”
“Struggling retailers closed a record 18,355 stores in 2018”
“More shops closed down in 2018 than in any year on record, as the crisis on the high street deepened and retailers went into full retreat.
Analysis for The Sunday Telegraph by the Local Data Company shows that 18,355 stores brought their shutters down for the final time.
There were around 13,676 shop openings last year, producing a net loss of 4,679 retail outlets, up more than 1,600 on 2017 as retailers such Marks & Spencer scrapped expansion plans.
Including banks and restaurants the total number of consumer outlets that closed was 50,828, also a record. …”
Exeter and Plymouth HMV stores close
When the new owner asked who would decide which 27 stores he would close, he said:
In Exeter the House of Fraser store was saved by doing a deal with landlord Exeter City Council.
Princesshay is owned by The Crown Estate/TH Real Estate which had already pulled out of extending the shopping centre last year.
Will Tesco cuts revitalise high streets? Almost certainly not
“TESCO is set to axe 15,000 jobs as part of £1.5bn cost-saving measure that will see fish, meat and deli counters across the country close down.
Bakeries will also be overhauled, with the supermarket giant now ordering staff to use pre-frozen dough instead of making it on site. …”
After putting so many butchers, fishmongers, bakeries and delis out of business, will this revitalise high streets?
Owl thinks not. The killer combination of high business rates, increased town centre parking charges and poorer public transport makes it uneconomic for small businesses to return to high streets.
Enterprise Zone “gazelle” companies (some in Devon) have unintended consequences
“Britain’s fastest-growing businesses could be contributing to job losses, according to research that claims the government’s policy of backing entrepreneurial companies “may be fundamentally at odds” with tackling regional inequalities.
A study of the performance of more than six million companies over a period of 17 years found that high-growth businesses had a “spillover” effect that could damage local employers.
Fast-growing companies, sometimes dubbed “gazelles”, have been identified in recent years as a way of boosting job creation and improving the nation’s productivity. Despite accounting for less than 5 per cent of businesses, these companies create about half of all new jobs and typically show higher levels of productivity.
However, the study, conducted by the Enterprise Research Centre, found that companies with the fastest employment growth — 20 per cent growth every 12 months for three consecutive years — tended to grow by “hoovering up” jobs from slower- growing businesses in the same region, in what the researchers called a “crowding-out competition effect”.
A 1 per cent rise in the incidence of high-growth businesses in a region was found to actually slightly cut employment, by 0.35 per cent on average — equivalent to a net loss of about 122,000 jobs UK-wide over the period studied, 1997-2013. The worst affected regions included the Scottish Highlands, Cheshire, the North East, Lincolnshire and Devon. In contrast, many urban areas in the South East and Midlands saw a net jobs gain.
Negative effects were most pronounced in the manufacturing sector and rural parts of the UK, where competition for skilled workers was most intense, the researchers said.
The fastest growing companies often attract the most skilled workers in a region where such staff are scarce, leaving slower-growing rivals struggling to attract employees and having to pay more to keep existing team members. As a result they hire fewer people and could be forced into job cuts.
Mike Harding, director of Inspira Digital, said that his ecommerce agency based in Barnstaple, Devon, competes with a London-based agency with a satellite office in north Devon. “If you have someone offering London wages here, that is a black hole that sucks up the local talent,” he said.
The issue can be exacerbated by large companies being offered tax breaks to open an office in Devon in the name of local development, Mr Harding said.
Professor Jun Du of Aston University, one of the authors of the research, said that “while encouraging clusters of fast-growth firms can bring productivity benefits to whole supply chains, some regions and industries with acute skills shortages could see unintended consequences”.
Source: The Times (pay wall)
Business rates killing high street shops
“Leading retailers called for a major overhaul of business rates yesterday after Next suffered a sharp slump in store sales in the run up to Christmas.
With pressure mounting on ministers to reform the outdated tax, fashion chain Next said sales in its 500-plus stores fell 9.2 per cent over the crucial festive period.
In a clear sign of how shopping habits have shifted, the company said online sales soared 15.2 per cent in the same period, meaning overall revenues were up. …”
“Quarter of shop space in England and Wales lost after 2008 crash”
“More than a quarter of all retail floor space in England and Wales disappeared in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, research has shown, as the industry struggled with the shift to online purchases.
The amount of shop space fell in all but five of 348 local authorities analysed in the study by academics at Northumbria University, Newcastle.
In 2008, there was more than 157m square metres of retail floor space in England in Wales. By 2015, the figure had dropped to just under 114m square metres, a 27.6% fall.
The analysis covers the period before the latest crisis to hit the UK retail sector, which has led to the collapse of high street brands including Toys R Us and Maplin. Many others including Marks & Spencer and Debenhams are closing stores and cutting staff.
Alongside the rapid rise of online shopping, retailers have been affected by consumers’ weak income growth.
The rateable value of retail property fell in two-thirds of the local authorities analysed during the period, despite the loss of a quarter of the total supply.
The figures illustrate a stark divide between regions. The value of central London locations surged during the period, with the biggest increase recorded in Westminster, where the average rateable value for retail premises grew by almost 80%.
In contrast, the value of retail property in south Wales slumped as areas such as Swansea, Port Talbot and Bridgend suffered from the decline of the steel industry. The local authorities on the south coast of Wales between Cardiff and Swansea all saw the rateable value of properties fall by more than 20% between 2008 and 2015.
The study compared the government’s data on business rates paid by companies on their property. The data was made available in the 2010 and 2017 rating lists.
The fall in the total rateable value of retail space could have significant implications for Britain’s model of funding local public services, said Paul Greenhalgh, a professor of real estate and regeneration at Northumbria, and a leader of the research.
Under changes to the funding formulae introduced by George Osborne as chancellor, local authorities keep more of the money collected from business rates. A fall in the total rateable value of properties in a local authority area could therefore leave the authority’s budget more exposed to price fluctuations in the property market.”
Councils face £500m bill after bank cash machine business rates ruling
“Councils face an estimated combined bill of up to £500m to refund supermarkets after the Court of Appeal ruled that cash machines should not be assessed separately for business rates.
Retailers Tesco, Sainsbury’s and The Cooperative Group, along with ATM operator Cardtronics Europe have won their challenge to a 2010 decision by the Valuation Office Agency to create separate entries for the sites of supermarket cash machines.
Property consultancy firm Altus estimates that the backdated bill which businesses will be due via rebates at £382m, while property consultancy Colliers put the figure at £496m. …”
“More than 200 UK shopping centres ‘in crisis’ “
“More than 200 UK shopping centres are in danger of falling into administration, experts are warning.
Analyst Nelson Blackley said the demise of “major anchor stores” such as BHS and Toys R Us, and the rise of online retail, had caused a “downward spiral”.
Many of the at-risk centres are owned by US private equity firms under deals that will need refinancing.
“If centres close, particularly in small towns, it will be catastrophic,” Mr Blackley warned.
The Department for Communities said it was “committed to helping communities adapt”.
Mr Blackley, from the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre, said the UK had an excess of shopping centres with similar retail offerings.” …
“The High Streets that missed out on millions: The Chancellor’s got £1.6bn to help shops but councils failed to make full use of his last helping hand”
“Struggling High Street shops have missed out on millions of pounds of vital emergency funding following a series of shambolic blunders.
On Monday, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a £1.6 billion lifeline for Britain’s High Streets, which included a £900 million relief package to help shops battling sky-high business rates.
It means that around 500,000 shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes are expected to see their rates bills cut by up to a third over the next two years.
The Treasury will also set aside £675 million to help councils rejuvenate their town centres.
But it is the Government’s second attempt at helping the High Street, after a £435 million business rates relief package was announced in 2017.
This was supposed to help businesses struggling to pay their business rates.
However, Money Mail can today reveal that millions of pounds from the first fund failed to reach the businesses it was intended to help, and was instead returned to Treasury coffers.
As many as three-quarters of councils failed to hand out their allocated cash to ailing local firms. In some cases, councils spent only an eighth of their budgets, while others helped as few as five shops.
One local authority failed to spend almost £800,000 of its extra funding.
Eighteen months ago, more than 500,000 shops, pubs and restaurants were hit by business rates hikes — a tax on bricks and mortar businesses.
Following a Money Mail campaign, ministers pledged to introduce a £300 million fund for councils to distribute to those worst affected over four years, as part of a wider £435 million business rates relief package.
Some £175 million of this had to be spent in the first 12 months — by the end of September — or be returned to the Government. But many councils misunderstood the rules, while others failed to promote the scheme or made it too complicated for small businesses to apply.
Some councils claim the Government did not give them enough time to distribute the money before it was lost.
Embarrassingly, the council in former Communities Secretary Sajid Javid’s own constituency, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, handed out only a third of the cash it had been given to help its High Street.
Mr Javid, now Home Secretary, was previously in charge of ensuring the fund was distributed by councils and had promised ‘absolutely no delay’ in doing so.
Yet figures collated by Retail Express and chartered surveyors Bankier Sloan reveal just £46,300 of the council’s £134,500 pot was given out in time — helping only 37 businesses.
Nearby Redditch Borough Council helped only 21 shops and spent just £15,800 out of £124,000, an eighth of its budget.
Stevenage Borough Council, Hertfordshire, gave cash to just five businesses in the town and awarded £18,800 out of a possible £100,000.
While Swindon Borough Council, Wiltshire, spent only £58,000 out of £314,300, helping 41 businesses — with more than a quarter of a million pounds leftover.
Fenland District Council, in Cambridgeshire, spent £21,277 out of almost £160,000, barely a seventh of its budget.
And Broxbourne Borough Council, in Hertfordshire, spent a fifth of its pot, distributing £38,000 out of £213,500 and helping only 31 shops.
Camden Council, North London, allocated 100 per cent of its fund, but said shop closures meant that, in the end, it was only able to hand out 86 per cent of it.
It meant that, despite distributing £4.84 million to businesses, it had £790,000 leftover.
By contrast, around 30 councils spent all of their funding. Barnsley Council, for example, spent every penny of its £276,000 and helped an incredible 2,135 businesses.
Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at consultancy Gerald Eve, branded the distribution of the grant ‘shambolic’.
He says: ‘It was a poorly designed fund by the Government and a knee-jerk response to the backlash against the rates revaluation.
‘It was then badly implemented by some councils which did not pay sufficient attention to the criteria.’
The fund was supposed to help the smallest businesses facing the greatest rises.
The Government decided how much money to allocate to each council by calculating the total increase in bills for firms facing a minimum 12.5 per cent rate rise and with a rateable value of less than £200,000 — the rental value on which business rates are based.
But many councils used this same rigid criteria when deciding which firms should receive cash —awarding it only to those hit by rate rises of more than 12.5 per cent.
In fact, councils had total freedom to spend the cash however they wished, as long as it went towards reducing business rates bills.
Some councils excluded businesses they felt did not need the cash as desperately, such as schools, banks and estate agents.
Meanwhile, multinational firms and Government bodies were typically excluded because they had exceeded state aid limits via other grants.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government refused to say how much cash had not been spent.
But research by Retail Express suggests it was as much as £17.5 million — 10 per cent of the budget.
A series of Freedom of Information requests showed that 159 out of the 195 councils that replied had failed to spend all of their grant by the end of April.
The deadline to hand out the cash was actually September 30, but many councils stopped distributing the 2017/18 grant at the end of the financial year.
News editor of Retail Express, Jack Courtez, who led the research, says: ‘I think it is incredible that councils claim they are being squeezed by a lack of central Government funding, but when they do receive money they fail to distribute it.
‘Many councils have let down local businesses which depended on this funding.’
Chartered surveyor Ian Sloan, of Bankier Sloan, who contacted councils to warn them they faced a massive under-spend, says: ‘The distribution of this fund has been a mess. Local businesses have lost out on money they really needed and now the money is gone.’
Councillor Matt Dormer, leader of Redditch Borough Council, says that as the funding is drawn from general taxation, the council has ‘a duty to spend it in an appropriate manner, and not to simply seek to spend as much of it as possible.’
Bromsgrove Council says it had to bear in mind that ‘any relief given to people facing an increase in their rates gives them a competitive advantage.’
Broxbourne Borough Council said that ‘100 per cent of businesses who completed and returned application forms were granted the relief.’ Swindon Council says it had to award cash automatically when few firms applied.
Stevenage Borough Council said it has already granted £32,392 of the £36,000 it has been allocated for the coming year. And Fenland Council says it would give higher amounts to successful firms this year as a result of the low take-up of the relief in 2017/18.
Camden’s Councillor Richard Olszewski says the council awarded all of its funds but ‘due to businesses moving in and out of the borough and a substantial number of successful rating appeals’ it was then unable to distribute it all before the deadline. This year it has over-allocated funds to allow for business turnover.
A total of £175 million was supposed to have been handed out in 2017/18, followed by £85 million this year, then £35 million in 2019/20 and £5 million in 2020/2021.
A Government spokesman says: ‘To help local businesses thrive, we have introduced over £10 billion worth of business rates support so nearly a third of all business pay no rates at all.’ “
Cranbrook town councillors attempt to block mobile catering vans is defeated
Owl says: This is what happens when you fail to build a proper centre in a new town.
“Members differed in their opinions when deciding whether to support a request for annual street trading consent from Richard Filby, who runs popular chip van Flippy Chippy.
Councillor Ray Bloxham said granting consent would go against Cranbrook’s ‘healthy’ image, as it is just one of ten sites selected to join NHS England’s national Healthy New Towns programme. He said: “We are trying to do something about the health of our town.
“We need to, at some stage, make a stand against this type of thing because it is not good.”
Cllr Bloxham said there is a ‘proliferation’ of mobile businesses coming into Cranbrook, which do not pay business rates and sell ‘unhealthy food’ to the community.
Cllr Sarah Gunn said a fish and chip shop is set to open in Cranbrook soon and the council needed to support it. She added: “It is not cheap rent or business rates – there are no concessions.
“A chip van up the road is going to make that very hard.”
Cllr Matt Osborne said Flippy Chippy is ‘well known and liked’ in Cranbrook, and had been involved with a lot of community events held in the town.
He said: “If we take that away when there is a chip shop opening, the backlash will be quite severe – because we are the reason people can not have fish and chips in town anymore.
“I think we will get some kind of movement against that.”
Cllr Bloxham proposed the council objects on the grounds that Cranbrook is a Healthy New Town and the council is ‘trying to promote healthy living’.
He added: “It is unfair competition for businesses trying to set up shop in the town. [Flippy Chippy] has no overheads apart from a bit of petrol.”
Cllr Bloxham’s proposal was defeated by four votes to three.
Cllr Les Bayliss said two other mobile companies sell food in Cranbrook and it would be unfair to object to Mr Filby’s request.
He proposed the council supports the trading consent request, but his motion was also defeated by three votes to two.”
Councillors finally agreed they would send their comments to East Devon District Council, which will decide whether to grant consent at a future date.
Mr Filby’s application is to trade from a catering van every Monday, from 4.30pm to 7.30pm, on Younghayes Road (by the country park).
First they changed offices to homes, now it’s shops
Will they be affordable ……….
“… Experts believe that turning unused shops into houses could stop the decline of town centres – as well as bringing down sky-high property prices.
Mr Hammond is also under pressure to freeze business rates which are blamed by retailers for helping to hollow out the high street.
A spokesman for the Treasury said: “We don’t comment on Budget speculation.”
More Sidmouth shops to close
“Coles gift shop, in the High Street, will close on Saturday, October 27, and The Rendezvous, in Fore Street, won’t be far behind.
The two businesses have joined a fast-growing list of shops which have left or have plans to because of rising costs and ‘unfair’ business rates. Since February Carinas, Hospiscare, NatWest and Sweet Temptations have closed.
New Look will cease trading on Saturday, October 20, Barclays on Friday, November 16, and Pure Indulgence will close April 2019 along with Govier’s of Sidmouth – which has gone online only. …”