As part of the Government’s long-term economic plan, the biggest package of business rate support in over 20 years, announced in the autumn statement, goes live today. This package of measures will make a massive difference for small shop owners and help businesses and the high streets across the country build a stronger economy.
The package includes:
a new £1,000 business rates discount for small shops, restaurants and pubs for 2014-15 and 2015-16;
a further extension of small business rate relief;
a new reoccupation relief to help get empty shops back into use;
the opportunity for firms to choose to pay bills over 12 month instalments to help them with their cash flow; and
capping the annual indexation at 2% this year.
I have today placed in the Library of the House estimates that each individual local authority has made of the number of retail premises, pubs and restaurants that will benefit from the new £1,000 business rates discount. Overall, councils estimate that they will provide more than £272 million of retail relief in 2014-15.
The £1,000 discount applies to eligible businesses with a rateable value of £50,000 or less, and is being delivered by local billing authorities using their Localism Act powers to provide new local discounts. In this case, the entire cost will be met by central Government. Local authorities are locally determining eligibility, given the diversity of different types of retail hereditament. My Department published on 29 January guidance to assist local authorities in ensuring that eligible local firms receive the support they deserve. A copy of that guidance is also in the Library of the House.
I have also today published guidance to assist authorities in their administration of the new reoccupation relief. Ratepayers that move into retail premises that have been empty for 12 months or more will be eligible for an 18-month 50% discount off their rates bill. This reoccupation relief is intended to encourage reoccupation of shops that have been empty for a long period of time and to reward businesses that make this happen. Businesses moving into previously empty retail premises between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2016 should be eligible for this relief A copy of the guidance to authorities is also in the Library of the House.
I would encourage hon. Members to draw these measures to the attention of local firms and shops, and ensure that all eligible firms are benefiting from the range of financial assistance open to them.