COVID-19 has presented a significant challenge for businesses in all sectors. The Government’s response to the pandemic has been unprecedented in scale, with more than £280 billion provided to protect millions of jobs and businesses, and the Budget in March setting out an additional £65 billion support in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
On business rates specifically, at Budget 2020 the Government announced 100% business rates relief for all eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties, given the acute and direct impact of COVID-19 restrictions on these sectors.
This was worth around £10 billion in 2020-21 and, alongside other business rate reliefs, ensured that over 1 million properties paid no business rates this year. At Budget 2021, the Government announced that it would extend the scheme for the first 3 months of 2021-22 at 100%, followed by a 9-month period of relief at 66%, subject to a cash cap for businesses.
Taken together, this amounts to business rates relief worth £16 billion for retail, hospitality and leisure properties.
This is a key sector across the Forest of Dean and sustains many jobs, which is why I have been regularly meeting with local businesses throughout the pandemic and communicating their feedback directly to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. I was pleased that our ‘asks’ were reflected in the Budget, with continued support for this sector.
Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that businesses outside of the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors have also been adversely affected by the pandemic. That’s why the Government is providing £1.5 billion of additional support to businesses that have not already received business rates relief.
This funding will be allocated to councils taking into account the economic impact COVID-19 has had on specific sectors. This approach will ensure relief is awarded quicker than would be the case if businesses sought support under the sometimes drawn out process of a rating appeal, which can often last years. This is the fastest and fairest way to support businesses outside the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.