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Queen's Speech

In our last update we looked at the prospects for the next revaluation being brought forward to 2021, given the delays to the necessary legislation caused by first the prorogation of Parliament and then the election - and with yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, we have our answer: the timing will be a little bit tight, but the legislation should be in place to ensure the next revaluation in England does indeed take place in April 2021.

The intended move to three-yearly revaluations is obviously good news for ratepayers, but should be considered a step in the right direction rather than the end position. It is clear that the economic landscape is shifting ever-more-quickly, and annual revaluations – now supported by many businesses and trade organisations may be the ultimate solution if a truly responsive rating system is to be created. It will be interesting to see if the exact wording of the Bill allows for greater flexibility in the future without the need for yet more new legislation.

The Queen’s Speech also made further business rates provisions, which will be broadly welcomed but ultimately long-term solutions are still required:

A fundamental review of business rates

While the need for a review so soon after the Treasury Committee’s inquiry is questionable, the terms of this review are crucial: if the Government is open to genuine reform, including a reduction in the overall burden, then it could be a path to a better system.

Increasing the retail discount from one-third to 50%

This will be welcomed – especially by cinemas and music venues, that qualify for the discount for the first time – but the commitment is only for a single year. The use of sticking-plaster solutions is beneficial in the short-term – albeit only for retailers – but real change is needed for the long-term.

Extending the duration of the local newspapers discount, and introducing an additional discount for pubs

This is another example of a patch up solution but will none the less be welcomed by those who will benefit

It is encouraging that business rates have featured within the new Government’s first legislative agenda, which at least suggests there is some recognition in Downing Street that it is an area that requires attention. Businesses should welcome anything that brings focus to the rating system and the need for reform, but also be alive to any attempts to simply pay lip service without properly addressing the issues. The fundamental review represents a chance for ratepayers to be heard, something that should be capitalised on.

As we go into the New Year, we will continue working to best represent your interests, be that for specific liabilities or the wider business rates system. In a changing environment, we are here to help you. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions about how the changes will affect you and your business.

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Simon Green

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