Business rates hike deals a ‘double blow’to employers

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A Fylde coast expert has said local businesses are being hit with a double blow when it comes to revalued business rates.

David Graham from chartered surveyors Butson Blofeld, of Poulton, said anyone wishing to appeal against increased rates was facing huge obstacles.

His call came after the Gazette reported some businesses across the county were facing huge rises due to the revaluation, some of which were well over 100 per cent and will hamper or even threaten viable businesses.

He said a lack of staff to deal with appeals and tightened appeal rules combine to make it almost impossible to get rates reduced.

He said: “A large number of Fylde commercial properties, particularly retail, have seen rateable values fall significantly, but unfortunately there are ‘transitional arrangements’ which cap rate bill reductions so they only fall by about five per cent a year.

“Not only are the Government making staff shortages to deliberately frustrate appeals, but also they are creating new appeal regulations which are grossly unfair.

“For example,appeals may not be allowed if the Valuation Office have made a ‘reasonable attempt’ to assess the property correctly.

“By this they mean within a margin of error – the level of margin is yet to be confirmed but 20 per cent has been mooted.

“This would mean that if they assess a rateable value of £98,000 on your property and you think it should only be, say, £80,000, you may not have a right of appeal,since it is within the 20 per cent margin of error.

“Those who have RV increases should note that transitional arrangements also cap increases to relatively modest levels.”

Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses said the next Government needed to act quickly to help small businesses.

He said: “Small businesses need support in their battle against surging costs.

“The number of small firms reporting an increase in operating costs is at its highest since 2013.

“That means it’s harder for them to invest, expand and create jobs. If costs continue to rise, it will undoubtedly have an impact on growth across the country.

“We’ll be looking to the next Government to take action.

“Only last month, small businesses had to absorb a hike in the national living wage and the business rates.”

The Government has set up a rates relief fund of £300m, with £22m for the North West, to help firms cope with the changes but full details of how this is to be distributed are yet to be revealed.