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Automatic payment of rate relief to small businesses could soon be on the way, after Government ministers have indicated they are discussing how to implement the scheme originally put forward by Peter Luff, Mid Worcestershire MP and Chairman of the House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee.

In March Peter brought forward legislation to make the payment of rate relief automatic for all qualifying small businesses to help them through the recession. At present, around half do not receive the help they are entitled to. Peter withdrew the bill when the Government indicated they would plan to introduce automatic payments along with other measures to help small businesses.

After the recent Budget – which made no mention of automatic payment of rate relief – the Chancellor wrote to Peter to assure him that the Treasury, the Department for Business and Enterprise, and the Department for Communities and Local Government were still looking at the issue. This week, Government Minister John Healey MP went one step further and told Peter in response to a written question that:

“The Department for Communities and Local Government has had a number of discussions with the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and Treasury on making small business rate relief automatic. The Government are keen to explore ways in which we can promote, and improve the administration of, the existing small business rate relief scheme and increase its take up, including through automatic options. CLG officials will work with Treasury officials to see how the take up of the scheme can be improved.”

Commenting Peter said,

“I am greatly encouraged by the Minister’s words. I had hoped – and been led to believe – that such measures might have been included in the recent Budget, and was disappointed the Government hadn’t been able to include it. I do appreciate, however, that these things need to be worked through in detail and the Minister’s response has reassured me that the issue is not forgotten in Government, and that automatic payments of rate relief could be coming very shortly.

“I urge the Government to waste no more time. All around the country small businesses are going to the wall. For those not claiming the rate relief, automatic payment could mean the difference between survival and failure.”

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