Rural business rates

'We shouldn't be paying': Councils urged to use business rates powers

By Oli Gross contact

- Last updated on GMT

'We shouldn't be paying': Councils urged to use business rates powers

Related tags: Rateable value, Business, Small business, Taxation in the united kingdom

Pressure is mounting on local councils to use their powers to help small rural pubs reduce their business rates, after revelations urban equivalents are benefiting from favourable discounts.

Mike Ratcliff, licensee of the Winds of Change pub in South Petherwin, Cornwall, has a rateable value of £5,500, but is still forced to pay rates despite George Osborne’s announcement in this year’s Budget that small businesses with a rateable value of less than £12,000 would be exempt from payment.

This is because the pub is  classed as a rural business, rather than a small business, so only gets a 50% discount.

But the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) has told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser ​(PMA​) it has already given local authorities ‘discretionary powers to grant business rate discounts as they see fit’.

Ratcliff, who is 79 and has run the Winds of Change for 25 years, has asked Cornwall Council for the full relief.

'Load of rubbish'

“They said they can’t do anything about it — but it’s a load of rubbish. They’ve got the authority,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be paying rates. It’s very strange. People think we are making a lot of money in the country — we’re not. We’re really struggling.”

Ratcliff contacted the PMA ​after reading last week’s issue, which reported the story of Pete Gardener, licensee of the Horseshoe Inn, also in Cornwall, who is also paying business rates despite having a rateable value of less than £12,000.

Ratcliff continued: “When I saw it, it annoyed me to no end to see someone in the same boat as me. I thought we were on our own with this problem. There must be a lot of village pubs struggling.”

Clearer guidance

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) called on local authorities to provide clearer guidance detailing all available reliefs for businesses.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Businesses should not need to fight to get the support to which they are entitled. This underlines the importance of root and branch reform across local government and a move away from a complicated system of overlapping reliefs.”

A spokesman for Cornwall Council confirmed it does not grant discretionary rate relief to public houses.

“The amount of discretionary rate relief the authority is able to devote funds to is limited, and we need to be certain that, in granting any relief, this will benefit Cornwall Council taxpayers,” the spokesman said.

Aggrieved ratepayers

“We recognise schemes put in place by Government can, on occasions, create anomalies whereby a ratepayer feels aggrieved with regard to the rural settlement status.”

DCLG is considering amending legislation to give small rural businesses the 100% relief automatically.

Related topics: Legislation

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