Cornwall’s business community has welcomed a decision by Cornwall Council to use a £2.72 million business rate relief fund to help as many businesses as possible.
The funding is Cornwall’s share of a national business rate relief fund announced in the March Budget to support businesses facing a steep rise in their rates as a result of the 2017 revaluation by the Valuation Office Agency.
Members of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet have agreed to assist all businesses with a rateable value of less than £200,000 whose business rates have increased by more than 12.5% following the revaluation.
The move will provide 50% discretionary rate relief on the increase in rates in 2017/18, decreasing over the following three years on a pro rata basis as funding is reduced. The transitional scheme is expected to help 875 businesses.
The move has been welcomed by the business community. Mark Duddridge, chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership said: “Many local businesses were left reeling by big increases to their rates bills following the revaluation, so this is welcome. It is up to local authorities to decide how they allocate their share of the discretionary funds and we think targeting as many businesses as possible is the right approach.”
Kim Conchie, chief executive of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, said: “This local innovative decision-making shows Cornwall Council is really trying to help businesses by reducing up-front costs and increasing certainty at a time when the political landscape and other pre-trading charges like the living wage, auto-enrolment and the apprentice levy make it a difficult time for trading and planning. We welcome this news as part of an ongoing dialogue between businesses and the public sector.”
Ann Vandermeulen, Cornwall development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Business rates present significant hardship, particularly to small and micro businesses and can often act as a barrier to growth or even to the detriment of business survival. FSB has long campaigned that action needs to be taken to alleviate that hardship and assist businesses with what is in many cases their most major overhead next to utilities and employment costs. We are delighted that Cornwall’s allocation of this national scheme has been wisely tailored by the Council to maximise benefit to those Cornish businesses most in need. Help with rising costs will be gratefully received and will be a lifeline to some whilst we seek proper reform of the whole system.”
Bob Egerton, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for Planning and Economy, said: “We looked at a number of different options and thresholds for businesses to qualify for the relief. We settled on the one that will benefit the biggest number of businesses in Cornwall, and it is something that can be implemented quickly.”
The Government is making £300 million available over four years to help businesses impacted by the revaluation. This is in addition to the usual transitional relief scheme.
Qualifying businesses will see the relief awarded against their gross bill after any other reductions or reliefs have been taken into account. The relief will be awarded for each financial year on a sliding scale as funding is reduced.