Help at hand for retailers in today’s budget

The Chancellor has promised to help small shops by cutting business rates by a third for all retailers in England with a rateable value of £51,000 or less.

That will mean an annual saving of “up to £8,000 for up to 90% of all independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes” he told the packed House of Commons.

Mr Hammond also announced £675m of co-funding to create a “Future High Streets Fund” to support councils to draw up plans for the transformation of their High Streets. He added that this will allow them to invest in improvements and help the redevelopment of under-used retail and commercial areas into homes.

He also announced a new mandatory business rates relief for public toilets so that local authorities can, at last, “relieve themselves”.

Jokes abound, Mr Hammond couldn’t resist a deluge of toilet humour – literally: “For the convenience of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, … and without wishing to get unduly bogged down in this subject … this relief will extend to any such facilities made available for public use, whether publicly or privately owned,” he announced to a guffawing House. “This is virtually the only announcement in this Budget that hasn’t leaked,” he concluded.

From the Rating Surveyors’ Association, we had more detailed analysis:

High street businesses are already benefitting from recent reforms and reductions to business rates announced since Budget 2016 worth more than £12 billion over the next five years.12 In the Budget the government is going further through Our Plan for the High Street. To provide upfront support through the business rates system, the government is cutting bills by one-third for retail properties with a rateable value below £51,000, benefiting up to 90% of retail properties, for 2 years from April 2019, subject to state aid limits.

The RSA understand that this relief will apply to retail property, as defined previously in the retail relief policy that was brought out a couple of years ago. It will apply to all properties with an RV under £51,000. i.e. there is not a single property occupation test such as with SBBR. However, the relief will be subject to State Aid limits.

In the longer term, to support a sustainable transformation of high streets, the Plan includes a £675 million Future High Streets Fund, planning reform, a High Streets Task Force to support local leadership, and funding to strengthen community assets, including the restoration of historic buildings on high streets.

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