Jerry Schurder, Head of Rating at Gerald Eve, Property Consultants and rates advisor to many BCA members, urged the Government to take urgent action to alleviate the rates burden being faced by the flexible space sector.
He highlighted that in Mary Portas’s independent review into the future of our high streets, she called for start-up retailers to be the number one priority when it comes to giving discounts, referring to the new powers that local authorities will have from April 2012 to reduce business rates bills. Schurder commented ‘many occupiers of flexible premises are start-ups and they too would benefit from such priority treatment but it is unrealistic to expect local authorities to use these powers given that no additional funding is being made available and Councils will have to meet the full costs of granting rates discounts.
Once the Local Government Finance Bill presently proceeding through Parliament reaches the statute books, then local authorities will retain a proportion of growth in rates from which they could fund discounts to start-ups, but that legislation is only intended to come into force in 2013 and rates growth will take time to come through subsequently’.
Schurder called on the Government to take early action in the forthcoming budget. ‘In addition to alleviating the empty rates burden by reinstating the empty property rate threshold at RV £18,000, the Government should encourage the new businesses that it sees as a key route out of the country’s fiscal difficulties by providing funding to alleviate rates for new businesses and new or refurbished premises’. As Mary Portas said ‘ We need to proactively develop new players and our future entrepreneurs. These are the brands and wealth creators of the future. Government should consider how business rates can better support small businesses and independent retailers.’