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07.07.17

Calls for Javid to sort out ‘shambolic delay’ of business rates relief fund

Small businesses have demanded that the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, should push councils to get on with distributing the £300m business rates relief fund that has seen a “shambolic delay”.

The cash was made available in the Budget in March, but the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned that many local authorities have yet to draw up plans and started the job of giving cash to businesses.

And now the FSB has penned a letter to Javid to try and prompt him to “get a grip on the situation” and make sure councils start distributing the relief immediately.

This should come in the form of a ‘letter of direction’ the FSB say, which would tell councils to urgently implement a strategy to hand out business rates relief in their area.

More than half a million firms will see a rise in their bills, and in the south east 39% of small businesses expect their bills to increase. In this area of England, more than £40m from the fund is expected to be made available, including £900,000 in Medway, £600,000 in Tonbridge & Malling and £450,000 in Tunbridge Wells.

“Small businesses across the country are still waiting for the promised £300m hardship fund to materialise,” said Martin McTague, FSB policy director.

“Local authorities have known their allocation since April, yet it’s likely most will not have schemes in place until August or September at the earliest,” he continued. “This shambolic delay means some small businesses are being left with no choice but to delay investment, avoid taking on staff or even close their doors, while they are waiting for this assistance.”

McTague added that Whitehall needed to “take control of the situation” and instruct local councils to get on with the job so that the relief can reach struggling businesses most in need.

Alison Parmar, FSB Kent development manager, said: “I have had numerous calls from businesses –from yoga firms to community-run pubs – who are worried about their dramatic rates increase.

“Many have had to accommodate rises of between 10% to 50% on their business rates with little warning. We need to support these firms,” she concluded. “The discretionary rates relief is one way we can make sure our independent companies continue and offer us choice and diversity in our towns.”

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