Thursday, March 13, 2014

News: Relief for Rotherham's retailers

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Rotherham Council has outlined its policy for granting relief to retail businesses in Rotherham that could be worth up to £800,000.

To support the retail sector, the government announced in the Autumn Statement in December 2013 that it will provide a business rates discount of up to £1,000 to all occupied retail properties with a rateable value of £50,000 or less in each of the years 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016.

The relief applies to most types of retail premises and also includes opticians, travel agents, markets, car showrooms, pubs, cafes, restaurants and charity shops. Rates experts at the council estimate that around 1,000 properties would be affected by the new relief and that it would be worth up to £800,000. The Government has guaranteed to reimburse the council for the cost of appropriate relief granted.

Local councils collect Non Domestic Rates (business rates) on behalf of central Government. Rotherham Council is currently on target to collect the budgeted level of business rates, around £34m for this financial year. Under a new scheme councils are able to keep a proportion of the business rates revenue as well as growth on the revenue that is generated in their area.

Rotherham's Retail Relief Policy is set to be approved by the council's cabinet next week. It will be down to each individual rate payer to apply for relief, similar to the way small business rate relief works.

Stuart Booth, director of financial services at Rotherham Council, said in the report to cabinet: "Retail Rate Relief is a temporary measure intended to support small retailers and it is anticipated that a wide range of businesses across Rotherham will benefit from the scheme which is consistent with the first of the council's corporate priorities: to stimulate the local economy and help local people into work."

Also in the Autumn Statement, The Government announced the introduction of a temporary reoccupation relief, granting a 50% discount from business rates for new occupants of previously empty retail premises for 18 months, to help reduce the number of boarded up shops on English high streets. The relief will be granted to businesses moving into long-term empty retail properties on or after 1 April 2014 and on or before 31 March 2016.

Whilst welcoming the initiatives, experts have called for an overhaul of the business rates system and for more regular revaluations. The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has been carrying out an inquiry focussed on Government support for the retail sector and recently published a report that concludes that the Government's retail strategies are full of good intentions but will be undermined unless the key issue of business rates is addressed.

Rotherham Council website

Images: RMBC

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