Autumn Budget 2018: Help for our beleaguered high streets?
In his final Budget before Brexit, Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered a package of measures which he believes will help our high streets ti evolve.
He mentioned in a recent Sky TV interview that, although he agrees high streets play a critical role and he wants them to remain at the heart of our communities, they have to change.
He believes they will have fewer retail outlets and more leisure destinations, with the areas around them being developed for housing.
Unfortunately, although a number of high-profile business leaders and other MPs had called for an overhaul of the outdated rating system, the Chancellor resisted any wholesale change to a system that produces £30bn a year.
Instead, he focused on providing business rates relief to smaller businesses, but only in England.
He announced £900 million in business rates relief with an additional £650 million allocated to rejuvenate high streets and their transport links. Planning rules will also be relaxed.
The £650 million injection and the relaxation of planning rules will be introduced over the next four years and will apparently allow towns and cities to improve their transport links and redevelop under-used retail space into homes and offices, helping to restore high street properties and bring vacant buildings back into use.
The £900 million relief will apply to small retailers in premises with a rateable value of £51,000 or below.
It is anticipated that this will assist 90 per cent of small high street retailers by reducing the bills for all small business ratepayers within the prescribed threshold by a third.
For example, a pub in Sheffield with a rateable value of £37,750 will save £6,178 in business rates next year. A newsagents in Birmingham with a rateable value of £14,250 will save £1,749.
There is not a single occupancy test as there is with Small Business Rates Relief, but business rates relief will be subject to state aid limits.
The Chancellor declared that ‘Britain is open for business’ but, with over 100,000 retail jobs lost in the last three years, is this the case for our high streets?
The Budget will not benefit any of the traditional anchor stores, which do bring a large percentage of footfall into our larger towns and cities.
Retailers and our high streets are caught in a ‘Catch-22’ scenario. Retailers need footfall, while consumers want retailers. So, if the shops aren't there, the footfall isn't there, and retailers won’t occupy the many vacant high street units.
Business rates is a complex area, and professional representation will help to ensure your appeal stands the best chance of success. Many businesses seek assistance from firms of chartered surveyors such as Scanlans, who have vast experience in this area.
Our understanding of what is required to make a reasoned and accurate business rates appeal can bring about a positive result quickly, sometimes even without having to enter the formal appeals process.
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