Central London bosses last night said another delay to business rates reform would be a “further blow” for beleaguered bars and restaurants.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has reportedly delayed a fundamental review of the levy, further rubbing salt in the wounds of West End businesses teetering on the brink after several lockdowns and fledgling return of international tourists.
The Treasury “just haven’t had enough time to look at it,” ahead of this month’s Budget, but the Chancellor was “keen to do a proper reform,” the Telegraph reported.
The owners of London bars Cahoots and Mr Fogg’s, Inception Group, said independent venues would sink unless rates were overhauled.
“Unless we want the future of the high street to be desolate, especially in inner cities, then rates urgently need reform,” co-founder Charlie Gilkes said. “Very soon every community pub is going to be a block of expensive apartments.”
“It’s a huge tax that we get nothing in return for,” he added.
Bosses said the Covid lockdowns should have accelerated rather than delayed the need for a review of the valuations of properties. It is the fourth delay to the consultation since Covid.
It is understood the Treasury will announce minor changes but nothing near the wholesale reform bosses had been eagerly anticipating.
Night Time Industries Association boss Michael Kill urged Sunak to recognise the “fragile state” of clubs and bars who face mounting debts after lockdown.
London First dubbed the rates system “broken”, and said another delay was “a further blow” to the city’s high streets.
“While the future of business rates is being resolved, the Treasury should support firms by extending VAT relief, restoring tax-free shopping and extending Sunday trading hours in the UK’s international centres,” CEO John Dickie said.
This week more than 40 trade associations including the CBI, British Retail Consortium and British Property Federation, have fallen on deaf ears. Bosses called for business rates to be frozen or cut.
Pubs and brewers across the UK were overpaying by up to £570m before the pandemic, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.
A government spokesperson said it had provided up to £16bn worth in rates relief during the pandemic and a review “would conclude in the autumn.”