Business rates experts at Colliers International have called for the Government to introduce a three-month or even six-month business rates deferment scheme to help businesses impacted by the coronavirus.
It follows last Wednesday’s (11 March) Budget announcement, which Colliers said was “largely applauded” for the support given to smaller retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, but criticised for the “lack of support” to any larger businesses, with many medium and large businesses across the sector now calling for “urgent action”.
Colliers has said that a potential three-month rates deferment scheme would mean that businesses are given a three months period in which they would not need to pay their business rates- which would “eventually be paid back as times improve”.
It also added that because this will be paid back, such a scheme would not be subject to restrictive State Aid rules, as current Government relief measures are. The Government would however need to “plug the hole” caused in local authority finances during this immediate period, but this would be repaid later.
John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers International, said: “We are in constant dialogue with our clients who are strong companies- but with footfall in retail centres ‘falling off a cliff ‘ and the hospitality sector seeing similar drops in trade, it is ridiculous that such large amounts of cash are being paid to the public purse when it could be used to safeguard jobs over the coming month .
“This three-month rate deferment would at least give businesses some breathing space to maintain their cash flow.”
He added: “Given that we could be seeing one of the worst pandemics in our lifetime, with a devastating resulting economic impact as shoppers keep away from stores and restaurants, warehousing for imported goods stay empty and increasingly office staff stay at home, the Government must introduce some emergency measures to support a wider section of business than it is currently proposing.”
In addition, Colliers suggests that if the impact of Coronavirus continues, businesses should also be able to claim a “Material Change of Circumstance” when appealing their business rates bills.
Webber continued: “If Boris Johnson wants to reassure business and the people employed by them that he is doing everything he can, then surely the above measures should be acted upon immediately. Let’s see what he says today.
“We are facing an ‘Economic Battle of Britain. If he really wants to follow in the footsteps of our wartime leader then he must prove it.”