Lancashire stunned by Government delay in completing review of business rates

Lancashire business chiefs have been left stunned after a long-awaited Government review of business rates was pushed back until later in the year.

The Treasury has confirmed will now publish its findings from its fundamental review into the property tax in the autumn, when it expects there to be more economic certainty.

The major review of the business rates system was called by the Chancellor at last year’s Budget.

Retail, hospitality and leisure operators are currently benefiting from a business rates holiday for the current financial year, which will end on March 31.

Lancashire's high streets have been devastated by covid restrictions, high business rates and online competition

Retail bosses have called on the Chancellor for a major overhaul of the rates system in order to put store-based business on “a level-playing field” with online retailers, who have seen strong sales growth during the pandemic.

Preston City Centre Business Improvement District manager Mark Whittle said: “The existing flawed rates system has been an issue for businesses in Lancashire since long before the pandemic.

“A large-scale review is well overdue and news of the delay is deeply disappointing.

“Crucial decisions affecting the long-term viability of firms and our high streets should cannot be ignored until the Covid situation has passed.

“Businesses across the region need to know that, as they try to rebuild following the pandemic, that the business rates system they pay into will be a fair one.”

Paul Foster, Development Manager with the Blackpool-headquartered Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The business rates system is clearly in need of fundamental change.

“This delay means that current reliefs will need to be extended both in terms of the existing measures with rates relief and also these being extended so more businesses can be supported.

"So many businesses have had little or no income for approaching 12 months and are simply not in a position to make rates payments.”

The Chancellor is to outline his Budget next week, when it is hoped he will extend the business rates holiday and furlough.