The ALMR calls for local councils to start supporting businesses

The ALMR’s Chief Executive, Kate Nicholls, writes exclusively for On-Trade Progress on the relief plans available to help local businesses:

The Government recently published a list of every local authority in England, highlighting the rates relief plans that had been implemented to help support businesses. A cursory glance shows that a number of councils have pushed ahead to implement the various schemes announced at the Spring Budget, but a significant number of councils are lagging behind.

Over 100 local authorities have not yet implemented either the pub-specific relief of £1,000 or the discretionary fund that has been earmarked for the hardest hit businesses. Seven months after the Spring Budget, this kind of delay is totally unacceptable and those hard-pressed businesses, for whom the relief was intended, are still waiting for the support they have been promised. The Government acknowledged that businesses were being squeezed and acted accordingly, but some local authorities have been far too slow in supporting their local businesses.

The problem is acute in London where 12 local authorities are still sitting on nearly £30m worth of relief that has been earmarked for businesses. Additionally, the anecdotal evidence that the ALMR has received over the past couple of months suggests that very few businesses are actually receiving the relief, despite what local authorities say.

One local authority in north London is on the Government’s list as distributing both the pub relief and the discretionary fund, yet ALMR staff members can find no mention whatsoever of either on the council’s website. This information should not be difficult to access and councils need to be far more proactive in communicating to businesses that support is available to them. The system needs to put the onus on councils to act, not on business to chase.

There is also the danger that some councils are being far too restrictive in the way they apply their relief. A number of councils have excluded eating and drinking out venues from their list of business eligible for the discretionary fund, even though no such guidance was given by the Government. We have also seen at least one local authority insist that businesses sign up to a healthier catering commitment before they can be considered for relief; an issue that is entirely separate from, and arguably irrelevant, to the issue of business rates.

The ALMR is pushing to Government to act with more impetus on the issue of rates to help secure support for businesses that are facing increasing cost pressures and instability. If you are still waiting for rates relief, information about rates relief or are being made to jump through unreasonable hurdles to acquire it, then please contact the ALMR at the earliest opportunity.