Promise of extra support for firms hit by increase in business rates welcomed by MP

Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman with local businessman John Di Paolo
Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman with local businessman John Di Paolo

Extra support for East Sussex firms hit with the steepest increases in business rates has been welcomed by Bexhill and Battle’s MP.

Revaluation of non-domestic business rates, which are taxes paid on non-residential properties such as shops, offices, factories, and pubs, has been carried out by the Government and are due to change at the start of April.

However since this is the first time that a national reassessment has been carried out since 2010, some businesses are facing steep increases.

The Government has already announced a £3.6bn package of transitional relief to help 140,000 smaller businesses but on Wednesday Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I have always listened to businesses and this situation is no exception.

“It is clear to me that more needs to be done to level the playing field and to make the system fairer.

“I am working closely with my right honourable friend the Chancellor to determine how best to provide further support to businesses facing the steepest increases.

“We expect to be in a position to make an announcement in the Budget in just two weeks’ time.”

Reacting to the news, Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman said: “I welcome the promise to help businesses who face the steepest rises.

“Since being elected, I have lobbied ministers to reform and urged a move away from taxing on the value of property and focus on profits or turnover.

“While that remains a long-term aim, I am grateful that the Chancellor will deliver further help in the Budget next month.

“It is great news that businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or less will, from this year, pay no business rates at all.

“We now need to help those local businesses with larger rateable values and steeper rises following the revaluation.”

Speaking in the House of Commons on the same day, Mr Merriman also expressed concerns that adequate funding for social care services in East Sussex could not be met solely by increasing local taxation paid by businesses and residents.

He urged the Government to consider reform to fund social care centrally, as it does with the NHS, and to change Government funding formulas so areas such as East Sussex, with a higher than average proportion of elderly residents, were given more.

Mr Javid told MPs that the Local Government Finance Bill will devolve 100 per cent of business rates to local authorities, arguing that by financing services locally, councils ‘will be even more accountable to their electorates, rather than to ministers in Whitehall’.

Currently councils collect business rates for the Government, who then redistribute them to the rest of the country.

Mr Javid explained that £240 million had been made available through the adult social care support grant, while councils had been allowed to raise council tax by a maximum of another three per cent a year through the adult social care levy.

He added: “We are undertaking a fair funding review to thoroughly consider how to introduce a more up-to-date, more transparent and fairer needs assessment formula. It is vital that the new formula delivers, so we are working closely with local Government to get it right.”

He continued: “This local Government finance settlement honours our commitment to four-year funding certainty for councils that are committed to reform; it recognises the costs of delivering adult social care and makes more funding available sooner; and it puts local councillors in the driving seat with a commitment to support them with a fairer funding formula.”

East Sussex County Council has raised its council tax precept by 4.99 per cent in 2017/18, including the three per cent adult social care levy.

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