Aldous calls on Government to support small shops with business rates

Waveney MP Peter Aldous yesterday asked the Government what steps are being taken to help small shops with business rates.

In Oral Questions to the Department for Local Government and Communities, Mr Aldous asked Minister of State for Housing, Mark Prisk MP, what the Government is doing to encourage local authorities to use the powers provided in the Localism Act 2011 to fund discretionary relief, which is crucial to supporting businesses that are struggling with property costs since it has a direct impact on the individual premise and therefore the viability of the business. The ability for local authorities to provide this rate relief has the potential to support the provision of local services, such as convenience stores, and to incentivize new investment in high streets, although at present it is unclear how it will be funded.

In October, Mr Aldous spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate emphasising the challenges that small businesses face in paying high business rates. Business rates have risen by 4.6pc and 5.6pc in the last two years and are scheduled to increase further by 2.6pc in April. He is continuing to investigate the impact of business rates on small shops given that the retail industry pays 28% of business rates and has suffered most from this financial burden resulting in the closure of many shops.

Mr Aldous said:

“Having seen first-hand the significant impact that high business rates have had on the retail sector in Lowestoft, it is important that these costs are mitigated where possible to drive growth and investment on the High Street. A discretionary rate relief through the new local rate retention powers would go a long way to achieving this end and making a real difference to the viability of a business.”

James Lowman, Chief Executive of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), said:

“Thanks to Peter Aldous’ intervention Ministers will now account to Parliament on the number of local authorities that are using their discretionary rate relief. This is important data needed to inform the debate about how Government can best help the high street. Discretionary rate relief is a highly effective way to support struggling businesses that provide essential services and a focal point for communities. We would like the Government to explore further how it can encourage, and where possible fund, the greater use of discretionary rate relief by local authorities.”

FULL TEXT:

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): What steps he is taking to help small shops with business rates. [140750]

The Minister for Housing (Mr Mark Prisk): The Government have taken significant steps to help small retailers, including doubling the level of small business rates relief for a further year until March 2014. This will benefit 500,000 small and medium-sized businesses.

Peter Aldous: I am grateful for that answer. Business rates for shops are a particular concern for small shops in my constituency. Has my hon. Friend’s Department carried out any analysis to ascertain how many local authorities are using the powers provided in the Localism Act 2011 to give discretionary rate relief to small businesses? If not, what can be done to encourage them to use them more extensively?

Mr Prisk: We are collecting that information right now, and we will present it to the House shortly. What I can say is that we have given new powers to councils to be able to provide further business rate discounts, and also the flexibility to be able to use them when and where they think is best. I would strongly encourage councils, whether they be in my hon. Friend’s constituency or elsewhere, to use those powers so they can better help their high streets.

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