Business West, the region’s largest and most influential business representative organisation, is calling on the Government to ease the debilitating squeeze of coronavirus restrictions by extending business rates relief beyond 31 March.
Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England have been exempt from paying business rates in the current tax year, but as of yet there has been no clear signal from government whether or not it intends to extend it.
With the Chancellor due to present his budget speech to the Commons on 3 March, Business West is urging the government to avoid a repeat of November’s furlough scheme u-turn and act now to alleviate one of the cost pressures facing our struggling businesses.
With many elements of Government financial support being extended into March, Business West is asking the Chancellor to reconsider an extension of business rates relief beyond this, as one of the less costly options on the table that would significantly help to protect lives and livelihoods.
“The furlough scheme demonstrated the importance of moving quickly to provide certainty for businesses. If Government had moved earlier last year to extend the furlough scheme, they could’ve potentially prevented thousands of job losses in the later summer/early autumn.
“In the run up to the budget and financial year end, Government once again has a small window of opportunity to make a difference by acting swiftly and providing much needed certainty for businesses struggling with the pandemic.
“Whilst we understand the need to balance the books and appreciate the huge outlay by Government since the pandemic began, extending business rates relief would be a cost-effective way of giving businesses some much needed breathing space.
“Businesses are currently looking at the next financial year – including whether to renew leases on their properties after March and April. Knowing about what happens to business rates now is a big material consideration in whether firms keep property and businesses going through 2021. Government getting ahead of the curve on this now will considerably increase the impact of a business rates relief extension.
“That being said, businesses simply cannot afford to wait until the Chancellor’s budget in March; they need Government to act decisively and bring forward any support measures they are considering now, so that businesses can plan for more than a few weeks ahead.
“The support schemes the Government has introduced so far have saved many firms and jobs, but they have arguably not gone far enough to help many survive a tough start to 2021. The drip-feed approach to business support measures has meant many firms simply cannot plan for the future.
“We are urging the government to extend business rates relief into the next tax year and urgently consider adopting a wider package of measures that covers the whole of 2021. This would take away the cliff-edges that firms face in a few weeks’ time when reliefs, forbearance and furlough are set to end. Action is needed now.”