Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – when old news is new
As we get used to the plethora of information that comes out of the Government these days – through official and unofficial channels – it seems there are very few surprises anymore when it comes to politics.
Take the Chancellor’s autumn statement today – it pretty much seemed every major policy addressed had already been announced or leaked at some point, so much so, I actually wondered: what’s the point of having it now?
I think it was Gordon Brown that introduced this little vignette of fiscal news for us to digest ahead of Christmas, perhaps he was hoping our goodwill towards him would start early. Nowadays we get tweaked policies, updates on budgetary figures and revisions on the revision we were given in April.
So this time around, we “discovered” the government is creating 26 new Enterprise Zones, including expanding 8 Zones on the current programme. This will spread Enterprise Zone benefits to 108 sites across the country.
Devolution of Business Rates to LA’s was included but the cat was let out of the bag on this one at the Conservative Conference back in September, so what more was there?
We already knew that LAs will have to make some efficiency savings but in return they get new leverage by keeping the rates they collect from business, potentially cutting them to boost growth. Elected city-wide mayors will have the additional power to levy a business rates premium for local infrastructure projects – with the support of local business.
By the end of this Parliament LA’s will control 100% of business rate revenues to fund local services, giving them £13 billion of additional local tax revenues. Top up and tariffs will stay in place but the Uniform Business Rates (UBR) will be abolished allowing any local area to cut business rates as much as they wish.
Finally, on the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) – the government will extend the doubling of SBRR for a further year from 1 April 2016, allowing some to breathe a short term sigh of relief.
Overall? no surprises at all for me on the Business Rates front and certainly almost nothing that couldn’t have waited until April to be ratified in the 2016 budget.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is the latest big name to call on the government to extend the business rates holiday beyond April 2021.
The retail and hospitality sectors are mobilising the troops with dire warnings that thousands of business are at risk if the rates holiday isn’t extended beyond April 2021.
The pandemic has led to more than 50,000 extra appeals being lodged against business rates by Scottish firms alone.