Councils in business rates information ‘black hole’

By Dan Peters | 05 July 2017

Councils that use Civica software may not be able to provide business rates relief promised by the chancellor in March’s Budget until August, The MJ understands.

Thousands of small businesses were promised £300m to ease the burden of rates hikes in early March – just weeks before the revaluation took effect in April.

But small businesses and local authorities were said to be caught an ‘information black hole’ caused by purdah and the General Election.

Whitehall guidance on its latest business rates relief plan was finally delivered to councils in May.

But Civica still has to update and test necessary changes to its software, meaning the distribution of business rates relief to some small firms could be delayed for a further three months.

One council chief executive said: ‘This shows why government needs to give far more notice and announce tax changes in the autumn – not in the last few weeks before the financial year starts.’

The Government’s decision to offer financial help came so late in the day that many businesses were still sent unadjusted, higher-rate bills.

Local government minister Marcus Jones has nevertheless piled the pressure on local authority leaders to deliver the relief.

A letter from Mr Jones, seen by The MJ, read: ‘Now that all guidance and funding arrangements are in place, I expect you to make rapid progress in implementing the schemes, which should be beginning to deliver relief to businesses in all areas by the end of June.

‘We have sent each authority a request for information on progress and we will be following this up with authorities that do not seem to have given this work sufficient priority.’

The same letter also confirmed that the Department for Communities and Local Government intended to provide £12,000 new burdens funding to each billing authority, with ‘additional payment due once rebilling costs can be established in the light of actual numbers of businesses receiving each relief’.

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