The government’s push to speed up rates relief for small businesses has been met with a lukewarm response from independent clothing retailers.
Council software providers Capita, Civica and Northgate Public Services have now agreed a deadline of 21 August with the government to provide councils with updated software to re-bill affected businesses.
Meanwhile it is understood that the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has turned to HMRC for help on resolving problems regarding its online “check, challenge, appeal” system for rates bills.
In March, the chancellor promised financial support for small UK businesses hit by business rate rises.
However, independents are not convinced that rates relief will be pushed through at an adequate pace.
Claire Mclennan, co-owner of The Square in Monmouth, said there needed to be more communication from councils about the situation: “All of this is happening at a level that, as yet, has had no effect on us at all. We have had no contact with the council to tell us if any relief is available to us.
“We are affected by the delays as we have been paying the new rates since April without any sign of when this will be sorted and if the reliefs will be backdated.”
Janine du Plessis, owner of clothing and lifestyle boutique Jaadu in London’s West Dulwich, said she used to receive rates relief but has yet to be granted the £50 cap promised in March. She agreed that the decisions being made are “not happening on our level”.
She added: “Rents are hefty, and the rates hike has left us all deeply concerned. We’ve heard absolutely nothing from the council.”
Dan Rigby, owner at Rigby & Mac, which operates three independents in south-east London – The Dulwich Trader, Ed and Tomlinsons – said: “It’s good that something is being done to speed up rates relief. It gives all links in the chain, from affected businesses to councils and the government, more certainty on their outgoings and how to budget accordingly.
“But transitional relief is just one part of it – it needs to be linked to long-term reform and a more meaningful metric for the system as a whole.”