Council Challenges Government on Business Rates

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Epping Forest District Councillors voted to ask the Government to review its actions in raising the National Non Domestic Business Rate locally when they met on Tuesday 3 November 2009. They called upon the Government to reduce the multiplier to the greatest possible extent and at least 20 per cent, increase transitional relief so that no business sees its bill increase by more than 2.5 per cent between the current and the new financial years and doubling the limit that restricts entitlement to small business rate relief.

Watch the webcast

Watch webcast of the Full Council on 3 November 2009

Councillors also supported the case of Buckhurst Hill businesses which had been particularly affected by the latest business rate increases. Members voted to invite the District Valuation Officer to explain his actions to Overview and Scrutiny.

Non Domestic Rates are collected from businesses by Epping Forest District Council and then paid over to Central Government. The Non Domestic Rates a business pays are calculated by multiplying the rateable value of their property by a rate in the pound (the multiplier) set by the Government.

There are two issues causing concern to local businesses at the moment. Firstly, every five years business properties are re-valued by the Valuation Office Agency to keep values up to date. This is a national exercise and is intended to be revenue neutral across the country as a whole. Consequently the multiplier is reduced to the same degree that property values have risen.

Many local businesses have contacted the Council to express their concern at the letters they have received from the Valuation Office Agency. These letters give the new property values from the draft list but do not make businesses aware of the reduction in the multiplier which will also be taking place.

The Portfolio Holder for Finance and Economic Development, Councillor Chris Whitbread said: These letters only give people part of the story and have caused a lot of anxiety. There is a general feeling amongst the business community that they will be facing substantially higher bills.

The exact terms of the revised Non Domestic Rates scheme will not be announced until November and then will not be confirmed as final until mid January 2010.

Councillor Whitbread took one of the motions to the Council to support local businesses. He said: We are calling on the Government to consider the impact on businesses of the re-valuation and asking that when they set the final terms of the new scheme they make the greatest possible reduction in the multiplier, limit increases in bills to no more than 2.5% and double the limits that restrict entitlement to small business rate relief.

A second motion was brought forward by Councillor Jon Whitehouse in support of Buckhurst Hill traders.

The national re-valuation is the `correction` of rateable values for a number of businesses in Buckhurst Hill. The Valuation Office Agency has stated that these businesses have previously been incorrectly undervalued and now they have realised their mistake, corrected higher valuations have been issued. Councillor Whitbread expressed concern at the effect on businesses already struggling in the recession and urged any businesses that have been affected by the amended valuations to consider appealing.

The Chamber of Commerce is running an event on 11 November to provide help and advice to businesses who are concerned about their Non Domestic Rate bills. As the Council`s representative on the Chamber, Councillor Whitbread said: This should be a useful event to try and clear up some of the misunderstandings that exist. Speakers are still to be confirmed but I am hoping the Valuation Office Agency will be represented and some firms who advise on rating appeals have also been invited.