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Retail bodies hit out at "ridiculous" business rate delays

The Association of Convenience Stores, the British Council of Shopping Centres and the Distressed Town Centre Taskforce have waded into the debate around business rates with calls for a rethink on the revaluation delay.

Mark Williams, chair of the DTCT, told MPs at the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee this morning that what now exists is a “ridiculous situation” where deprived areas are financially supporting affluent ones through the payment of business rates.

In October, the government announced that the revaluation of business rates would be delayed until 2017, meaning organisations are paying rates which were set at an economic high point in 2008.

Williams added: “No one asked for this delay in revaluation. It has impacted where it was supposedly going to help. In many of these distressed towns you can’t rent space for a pound because the rates are too high.”

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Edward Cooke, director of policy and public affairs at the BCSC, said the delay was undermining another of the government initiatives. “13 of the 17 Portas pilots that we were able to get rental information on will be worse off,” he said.

He also criticised the government’s methodology in calculation the redistribution of business rates, and said the sample size was too small.

He added: “Lots of the commentary in the market was about more frequent revaluation. It’s not clear to anybody where this advice [to delay the revaluation] has come from.”

Shane Brennan, public affairs director at the ACS, said: “The Localism Act gave a range of powers to local authorities to grant rate relief to any business they chose. The problem with that is that there’s no money at a time when their budgets are increasingly squeezed.”

He suggested that the government should look at ways of underwriting rate relief for the first few years after a business has opened.

The BIS committee also heard how the government’s ‘town centre first’ policy for development is not necessarily working and that many local businesses were still threatened by out of town shopping centres.

Williams also suggested that there is cross-departmental support for using government infrastructure money to support property development.

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