Autumn Statement 2013: The reaction

In Industry News On

Responding to today’s business rates announcements, and the Chancellor’s pledge that business rates reform was “on the agenda for the 2017 revaluation,” Liz Peace, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation, said:

“We are delighted that the Chancellor appears to have heeded our calls – and those other business groups – of to commit to a review of business rates, as well as taking short-term action to mitigate the harm that continues to be caused by this archaic property tax. However, simply tinkering around the edges of the system will not be enough – the business rates regime remains one of the greatest barriers to investment in the built environment, and is fundamentally unfit for the 21st century.

“Action to support the re-use of empty shops is particularly welcome. Empty properties blight our high streets and town centres, and we would urge government to think further about reforms to the business rates regime that would allow property owners to invest further in these properties.”

Today’s announcements, all lobbied for by the British Property Federation, commit the Government to:

• support businesses to expand and create jobs by capping the Retail Prices Index increase in business rates to 2% in 2014-15 and extending the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief to April 2015;

• provide additional support to the retail sector through a business rates discount of up to £1,000 in 2014-15 and 2015-16 for retail properties (including pubs, cafes, restaurants and charity shops) with a rateable value of up to £50,000, and a 50% discount from business rates for new occupants of previously empty retail premises for 18 months.

The Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) also gave their immediate reaction to the Autumn Statement.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “We have always advocated the dual approach of tackling the deficit and driving growth – the OBR forecasts confirm it is working. Let’s stick with what works.

“The pressure on the high street has been recognised; the 2% cap on business rates and discount for very small businesses are positive, as is the reoccupation relief.

“Abolishing a jobs tax on employing young people under 21 will make a real difference and help tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.

“But it was a missed opportunity not to support our hard-pressed energy intensive businesses which are also struggling with rising costs, and the package on housing supply could have been more ambitious.

“As we enter the festive season, positive news on growth is clearly welcome but much remains to be done if the benefits of economic recovery are to reach every home in every corner of the UK.”

Dan Wagner CEO of Powa Technologies believes although this is positive news, the damage may already be done for a number of retailers: “The Chancellor’s decision to cap business rates at 2% will go some way to alleviating the pressures on high street retailers. However, for many companies it may be too little too late, especially those companies who are struggling with fierce competition from online.

“A complete break from business rates for a year would be a far more effective measure to address the challenges facing the high street, and could even save many companies from going under. Capping them for 12 months is a relief, however, it doesn’t go far enough to support businesses currently battling to survive in what is an incredibly tough environment.”

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