Nearly 30,000 East of England retailers set to benefit as £1 billion support for high streets and local firms kicks in.

As part of the government’s long-term economic plan, the biggest package of business rate support in over 20 years to help high streets goes live today (1 April 2014), Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced.

Many businesses already get 100% discount as a result of government policy. The tax changes that come into effect at the start of the new tax year mean nearly 300,000 eligible small shops in England will benefit further. In some cases this could give a typical small shop, pub or restaurant with a rateable value of £10,000 savings of 30% extra or more when compared to last year’s business rate bill. 

In addition to the new business rate discounts, specially targeted to support small shops, all businesses can now choose to spread their bill payments over 12 monthly installments rather than 10 after rules were changed to give businesses greater control over their cash flow.

Mr Pickles said that today’s new measures would make a huge difference for struggling small shop owners and help businesses and high streets across the country build a stronger economy.

Estimates published for the first time today reveal where the shops eligible for the new £1,000 retail discount are located. They show an estimated 5,000 premises in Birmingham; 2,400 in Bradford; 3,900 in Cornwall; 3,000 in Leeds; and 3,290 in Manchester are now set to benefit, as well as shops and pubs in small rural and suburban communities. A full table (estimated number of properties that will receive the £1,000 business rates retail relief by local authority) is set out below.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

“A key part of the government’s long-term economic plan is to back business with lower taxes. Small shops are the lifeblood of local economies, and today’s changes will mean a massive boost to our town centres - helping to create more jobs and securing a better future for our children.

A whole string of changes to business rates kick in today bringing new support to local shops, pubs and firms. In some cases shopkeepers could see their bills cut by a third extra or even more, which is worth thousands of pounds in tax breaks.

Together with our sensible changes to planning rules and action to tackle unfair parking practices, we are helping local communities secure the future of their high streets.”

The full list of business rate support measures, unveiled by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement, that take effect on 1 April 2014 are:

  •  a new reoccupation discount of 50% for 18 months for new occupants of retail premises that have previously been empty for a year or more
  • allowing businesses to pay their bills over 12 months (rather than 10), which will help every firm with their cash flow
  • a 2% cap on business rate inflation increase
  • the new £1,000 business rates discount for local shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs (up to a rateable value of £50,000) estimated as more than £272 million of tax relief this year
  • the doubling of the extension of the small business rate relief until 31 March 2015, which will mean 360,000 business properties pay no bill at all

Helen Dickinson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium, which represented 80% of the retail sector, from small to large retailers, said:

"The BRC welcomes the package of measures announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement which are due to be implemented today. The government has recognised that the high street has been under enormous pressure in recent years, with more than 1 in 10 shops across the country currently standing empty."

"The measures employed today will help boost confidence in the sector, support retailers to keep prices low and safeguard 7500 retail jobs in the coming year, as well as support local communities by keeping more shops open."

Michael Weedon, Deputy CEO of the British Independent Retail Association, said:

“The high street has been crying out for help on business rates for years and it was good to see the Chancellor fully recognise the need for action in extending rate relief and creating the £1,000 discount for small shops and leisure outlets at the same time as he recognised the need for far-reaching reform of this tax.”
The new reform on business rates payment options means a business with a rateable value of £20,000, making payments over 12 months instead of 10, would have lower monthly payments by over £160.

In addition, a new Employment Allowance takes effect which will mean 450,000 small businesses no longer have to pay employers national insurance contributions. Pubs are also benefiting from the further cuts in beer duty announced in the Budget.

From today councils, businesses and citizens can use these measures to shape the future of their local high street so it remains a vibrant, viable part of the community where people live, shop, use services, and spend their leisure time.

The government has also introduced sensible changes to planning rules to get empty and redundant buildings back into productive use, and brought forward proposals to scrap unfair parking enforcement practices.

All these steps demonstrate the government’s commitment to supporting businesses and helping communities to adapt their high streets so they can thrive in an online shopping age.