IslingtonTribune

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Rates relief fund ‘a drop in the ocean’

Town Hall sets aside money to help small businesses struggling to cope with 42% rise in bills

06 October, 2017 — By Joe Cooper

Hak Huseyin, co-vice chairman of Islington Chamber of Commerce, and, right, Cllr Asima Shaikh

THE Town Hall has agreed a rate relief scheme to help small businesses and pubs cope with the impact of the government’s business rate rise – but have admitted it is only a “drop in the ocean”.

Traders in Islington have seen some of the biggest business rate increases in the country following the government’s national revaluation.

The worst-hit local firms will be facing an average 42 per cent rise in their business rates by 2020/21.

To counter the hike, the Town Hall was given £8.6million to play with from a £300million national pot.

At a meeting of the council’s executive last Thursday, it was agreed that it would be best used to help small firms, pubs and to launch a discretionary rate relief scheme.

However the executive also noted that the money made available for rate relief by government is less than 3 per cent of the total extra sum businesses will have to pay as a result of the revaluation.

Co-vice chairman of Islington Chamber of Commerce Hak Huseyin said: “The government has piled so much pressure on Islington businesses.

“I wouldn’t even call this a token – they just want to appear as though they are helping. How can this money be divided among all the businesses that are struggling?”

Councillor Asima Shaikh, executive member for economic development, said: “We welcome this money and have set up a programme that will bring some rate relief to businesses and pubs in Islington who need it most.

“However, the £8.6million in rate relief that the government has allocated to Islington is a drop in the ocean compared with the £315million extra business will pay in the same period, and it is unlikely to ease the increased burden for most Islington businesses.”

She added: “While the rate relief money is welcome, it was very disappointing the government announced it at the last minute and with no warning – this greatly delayed the speed at which rate relief could be brought to those who need it most.”

Bills with lower amounts for small businesses and pubs will begin to be sent out from next month.

A spokesman from the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve been clear that local authorities should take urgent steps to make sure small businesses benefit from the funding that we ­­an­nounced at the Budget in April.

“There are councils that have pressed ahead and issued revised bills. Others have chosen to wait for software updates to deliver this particular scheme and we’ve taken steps to make sure business get this relief as quickly as possible.”

Earlier this year, the council, local business and neighbouring local authorities voiced strong concerns about the impact of the revaluation, including a petition with 14,250 signatures protesting against the increase.

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