The Chancellor presented his Spending Review to Parliament on Wednesday afternoon and whilst his speech made no reference to business rates, the accompanying papers reveal that the Uniform Business Rate (UBR) in England for 2021/22 will be frozen at the same level as this year.
In our update of 22nd October we reported on the publication of the CPI inflation figure for September 2020 at 0.5% which would have potentially resulted in an increase in the UBR from 49.9p in England to over 50p – the first time that the UBR for all properties would have exceed 50%. Instead the multiplier will remain at 49.9p for properties with Rateable Values below £51,000 and 51.2 p for those with larger RVs.
This is disappointing especially as the Government had promised to announce its decisions in relation to the Tranche 1 questions posed as part of call for evidence from HM Treasury relating to its Fundamental Review of Business Rates. The conclusions on the most pressing areas were to be made in the Autumn ahead of final conclusions in Spring 2021 but we understand that the Government’s response on issues raised in both Tranches 1 and 2 will be delivered in the Spring.
Freezing of the UBR does not go anywhere near addressing the needs of businesses as we face continued lockdowns and revised Tiers.
The Spending Review publication also states that:
“The Government is also considering options for further Covid-19 related support through business rates reliefs. In order to ensure that any decisions best meet the evolving challenges presented by Covid-19, the government will outline plans for 2021-22 reliefs in the New Year.”
We hope that the Government will take the opportunity to take the more radical measures that we put forward and will continue to lobby for much needed reform. In the meantime we are in active discussions with the Valuation Office Agency in an endeavour to fast-track reductions in rateable values for properties which have been severely impacted by the pandemic.
At this stage the freezing of the UBR relates only to England.
The Welsh Government have advised that they
“will consider how any additional consequential funding allocated to Wales can be best targeted to support our communities and businesses in Wales as part of our budget and spending priorities”
The Scottish Budget is not until the new year and we would expect any announcement regarding UBR in Scotland to be delayed until then.
In Scotland the Minister for Public Finance and Migration recently wrote to all rate payers detailing the reforms to the non-domestic rating system following the Barclay review and drawing particular attention to the new civil penalties that will apply from early 2021 if requests for information are not responded to within the specified timetable.
As the Assessors begin to prepare for the revaluation in 2023 they will be issuing Assessor Information Notices (returns of information) in the new year. It is important that these are responded to within the specified timetables as otherwise potentially hefty fines will be applicable.
As always we are here to discuss any specific issues regarding your properties and will keep you informed of further development regarding business rates across the UK.