Small high street firms wake up to rare good news as they share in rates cuts

Brighouse high street.
Brighouse high street.
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Small high street firms will be given rare good news on Monday when they share tax cuts worth half a billion pounds as business rates bills are slashed across England.

While council tax, prescriptions, utility bills and car tax are all set to rise, thousands of high street shops, pubs and restaurants will be set for a reprieve.

In last year’s Autumn Budget, the Government announced a business rates discount scheme for small-sized high street properties in England which have a rateable value below £51,000.

Under the plan, small firms will receive a one-third discount on their rates bills from April 1 for the next two years, which Chancellor Philip Hammond said will help “up to 90 per cent of all independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes”.

According to numbers crunched by real estate adviser Altus Group, the average shop will see savings of £3,292 in their business rates bills for 2019/20, while the average pub will save £6,052.

The average restaurant will receive a discount of £7,212 as a result of the new retail discount with councils in England setting aside £502m this financial year to cover the cost.

Robert Hayton, head of UK business rates at Altus Group, said it was imperative that small firms check their new tax demands carefully, warning “some councils are insisting that firms apply for the discount rather than applying it automatically”. But he added that it is not all good news, pointing to the fact that local authorities in England are still expected to rake in £25bn in business rates overall during 2019/20, an increase of £206m.

According to the Federation of Small Business, the 10 councils set to garner the most from rates over the next 12 months are: Westminster, £2.2 bn, City of London, £1.2bn, Camden, £650m, Tower Hamlets, £461m, Birmingham, £449m, Hillingdon, £384m, Leeds, £378m, Manchester (£335 million), Kensington and Chelsea, £332m, and Southwark, £328m.