Government guidance to local authorities on retail relief – Colliers International welcomes clarity, but does not think measures have gone far enough yet for business.

23rd March 2020, 11:37 am

The Government last week published announcements to help businesses with their Business Rates costs.

In England:

  • A cash grant of £10,000 is available for small businesses with a Rateable Value of under £15,000.
  • A 12-month rate-free period for all businesses in the retail, leisure, nursery and hospitality sectors.
  • A cash grant of £25,000 for those in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors above with a Rateable Value of below £51,000.

The lowest cash grant is aimed at ratepayers who currently receive Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief.

The 12-month rate-free period is an extension of the current Retail Relief Scheme which was introduced to ‘help the high street’ and will only apply to properties that are ‘wholly or mainly used as shops, restaurants, cafes drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues’. It has now been extended to cover nurseries and childcare establishments.

The cash grant of £25,000 appears to apply to rating assessments with a Rateable Value between £15,000 and £51,000.

In Wales

The package mirrors the offering in England, with the retail, leisure, nursery and hospitality businesses being given a year-long business rates holiday.  A grant of £25,000 will also be offered for businesses in the same sectors with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000.

It also provides a £10,000 grant to all businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

In Northern Ireland

Rates will not be payable for the next three months on any business property and LPS are deferring issuing bills from April until June.


Again, Scotland will mirror the English reliefs:

Small businesses who receive the Small Business Bonus Scheme or rural relief will be eligible for a £10,000 grant.  There will be 12 months’ relief for properties in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors and a £25,000 grant for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000. We are expecting this to be expanded to include nurseries.

In addition to this, 1.6% of rates relief will be given for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing the planned below inflation uplift in the poundage from 1 April 2020 and there will be fixed rates relief of up to £5,000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 from 1 April 2020.

There is still the matter of whether the relief may be limited by State Aid and are awaiting Government’s confirmation following their application to the EU, but we are expecting a positive outcome and are advising occupiers of properties in these categories to stop payments immediately.

Please note that this does not include ancillary properties within an occupier’s use, such as offices or distribution centres.

John Webber, Head of Business Rates at Colliers International, said: “Although we welcome the clarity given in this guidance and the support given to the retail and hospitality sectors, we still do not think these measures go far enough to help businesses suffering from the impact of Covid-19. Retail and leisure are not alone in being crucial to the UK economy – telecoms, financial services, manufacturing are also key and so far, no reliefs have been offered to either the industrial or the office sectors, which are also crying out for help.

“Every business plays its part and every business is suffering at the moment and likely to do so going forward for the next few months due to forces outside their control. We really must support them.”

Webber continued: “Rather than giving stage by stage offerings to whichever sector is shouting loudest, the Government should have a consistent across the board approach. We would suggest giving every business a six months business rates holiday, to be reviewed at the end of that six months to see if it should be extended for the year.”

He continued, “There are other options for rates relief that we are looking at on behalf of clients, such as partial empty relief if properties are only partly occupied, and redevelopment relief for which we are able to obtain zero liability very quickly, even if the building is finished to Cat A standard”

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