The government’s plans to raise business rates have been hit by fresh criticism, as it is claimed businesses appealing the rates rises could face lengthy waits to have their appeals heard.
As a result of a backlog of around 280,000 appeals with the Valuation Office Agency, businesses could face years of waiting before their cases are resolved. Last year 64,000 appeals were resolved, well below the government’s target of 153,000, The Guardian reports.
This news comes as pressure increases on the government to scrap the plans. One Conservative MP, Mark Field, appealed to the chancellor to abandon the “looming nightmare” rates. Field claims the rates rises would mean London retailers would face no choice but to “simply shut up shop”, The Telegraph states.
Three-quarters of small businesses in London cite business rates as the single biggest issue facing their business, research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Camden Town Unlimited Business Improvement District (CTU) show.
The organisations have joined calls for the Chancellor to alter his plans, appealing for a London business rate concession.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said that it is essential that each ratepayer pays its fair share, given the growing burden of business rates.
”However, the plans for the new appeals process would mean that a business rates valuation determined to be inaccurate by the independent Valuation Tribunal for England, would only be corrected if it is deemed ‘outside the bounds of reasonable professional judgement’,” she said.
”This would be unfair to ratepayers and create additional uncertainty for local government. Instead, a collaborative working relationship between the Valuation Office Agency and ratepayers, where information and evidence can be shared and appeals avoided, should be sought.”
The treasury, however, has hit back at what it called “scaremongering” over the rates. David Gauke, chief secretary to the treasury, claimed that most business will either see no change in their business rates, or may actually see them decrease.
Guake commented: “Far from the picture painted by scaremongering ratings agents, nearly three quarters of businesses will actually see no change, or even a fall, in their business rates bills.
“The fact is that the generous reliefs we are introducing mean that 600,000 small businesses are paying no business rates at all – something we’re making permanent so they never pay these bills again.
“Whether on a town’s high street or in a rural community, we’ve also introduced £3.6bn in support for companies affected by the business rates revaluation – a process that is making the system accurate and fair for everyone.”
The new rates come into effect from April, and are due to be set by the Valuation Office Agency in the coming weeks.