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The Government must take swift action in next week’s Budget to introduce automatic payment of rate relief to small businesses, argues Peter Luff, Chairman of the House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee.
Peter has written to the Chancellor and the Secretaries of State for Business and for Local Government reminding them all of the need to introduce automatic payment of small business rate relief – an idea he originally put forward in March with his Small Business Rate Relief (Automatic Payment) Bill.

At the time, the Government said that, although they were sympathetic to the aims of the Bill, they were unable to support it, but they were looking ahead to the Budget and to a wider package of business support. The Government gave Peter assurances that they would be addressing the issue of automatic payment of rate relief in the Budget. His letters today are intended to remind them of that pledge, and the important benefits such a change would have.

Rate relief was made automatic in Wales in April 2007 and in Northern Ireland last month, but in England is estimated that over half of small businesses still miss out on the relief - probably largely because they don’t know about it. According to the Local Government Association (LGA) £400 million worth of rate relief did not get to qualifying small businesses in 2006.

Commenting Peter said:

“The recession is continuing to bite hard, and more and more businesses are falling prey to it. The Government has an opportunity to throw them a lifeline – at no extra cost to the taxpayer. Such a move could see businesses save up to £1,200 a year – not in itself a huge sum, but more than enough to keep many struggling businesses above water.

“The Government gave me assurances when I introduced my Bill that they were looking at this issue ahead of the Budget. The Chancellor’s speech is now only days away. They must honour the pledge and introduce this simple change to give help to our struggling small businesses.”


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