Tuesday 17 March 2020 6:58 pm

Coronavirus: Business rates holiday granted for all retail and leisure firms

Pub, restaurants and shops will be hoping that emergency measures unveiled by the chancellor this evening, including a business rates holiday for all firms, will be enough to keep the sector afloat through the coronavirus crisis. 

Rishi Sunak has announced that all retail and hospitality firms will be exempt from paying business rates for 12 months in a bid to combat the financial damage caused by the outbreak.

The chancellor had announced in the budget last week that all hospitality and retail businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 would be eligible for a 100 per cent rates discount.

Tonight he extended that to cover firms of any size, “irrespective of rateable value” following outcry in the industry that the government had not done enough to protect businesses and jobs. 

Smaller businesses were also given the option of a £25,000 grant to cope with the impact of coronavirus. 

On Monday the prime minister advised the public to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants and theatres, but did not offer any further financial help for the sector, in a move that the industry described as “catastrophic”. 

Industry figures this evening said they were relieved with the ramped up measures, but warned that more will need to be done as the coronavirus challenge continues.

The industry welcomed the new measures but called on the government to do more to address the issue.

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said last night: “The chancellor has clearly been listening and these extra measures represent proper progress on last week’s budget.”

Yummy Pubs chief executive Tim Foster said the new measures will “go some way to help support us” but they “don’t provide the immediate and necessary funding that will keep people employed and in meaningful careers”. 

“The government must do more and act quickly to avoid widespread job losses and hardship,” Foster said.

Breakfast Club chairman Charlie McVeigh added: “There is a vital intersection which Mr Sunak needs to grasp between looking after the newly-laid off teams, keeping those teams together and linked to their employers, avoiding trading while insolvent and retaining the ability to benefit from the recovery when it comes.”

Major retailers including Topshop owner Arcadia, New Look and Primark wrote to the chancellor ahead of this evening’s announcement calling for an immediate suspension of rates.

The letter from retailers said: “All major retailers, including the members of this group, urgently need the Government to take measures to support the whole sector during these unprecedented times.”

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickenson said the chancellor had provided a “big, bold package of measures that will be a huge cashflow boost and will improve confidence for those affected”.