Tesco, Boots, BT and more ignored over reforms to business rates appeals system

Helen Cahill
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The government moved ahead with changes despite the protests of large companies (Source: Getty)

The row over business rates has erupted again after it emerged the government ignored the concerns of businesses as it pushed through reforms to the appeals system.

Last year, firms responded to proposed changes to the appeal system which would allow the government to reject appeals which disputed a valuation that was within an error of roughly 15 per cent.

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The government received 287 responses to the planned overhaul, but none of the firms backed the change, according to an analysis of submissions by Gerald Eve.

The frank submissions from companies such as Boots, Tesco, Unilever, BT and others demonstrate how unpopular the government’s plans were.

In a submission seen by City A.M., Boots said it was “disappointed” with some aspects of the reforms which were pushed through “despite the strong representations from businesses and their representative trade organisations”.

BT said:

BT does not believe that the proposed policies will deliver an improved rating system for the benefit of business; the policy changes will have the opposite effect.

In a period of economic adjustment following the EU referendum, the benefits of safeguarding investment and employment should outweigh the cost of ensuring business rates support.

Many firms were worried that the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) could hand down valuations without providing the evidence for its decision.

Whitbread, owner of the Costa coffee chain, wrote: "This lack of transparency makes the system unfair.

"In the introduction to the latest consultation paper, we read that 'under the formed system, businesses will be more confident that their valuations are correct.' This is incorrect."

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A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the government had addressed many of the concerns raised.

“This includes ensuring that the appeals process allows a tribunal to decide if a current valuation is reasonable and making sure that sensitive information is protected as part of the process,” the spokesperson said.

BT also warned the VOA would not have the resources to carry out the reforms, saying that around 1,000 staff will leave the agency by 2020, more than a quarter of its workforce.

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