6 January 2014

The NHBF has welcomed the government’s move in December to cap increases in business rates, extend small business rate relief and offer a discount on rates for small businesses.

Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement announced a series of measures, described by the government as “the biggest package of business rates support in over 20 years”.

This included a promise to limit rises in business rates to 2%, an extension of the small business rate relief scheme, a £1,000 discount on rates for small businesses with properties worth up to £50,000, a 50% discount on rates for traders moving into vacant properties and allowing businesses to pay their bills over 12 months rather than 10.

Business rates had been due to rise by 3.2% while the small business rate relief scheme had been due to stop in April, but will now run until at least April 2015.

NHBF chief executive Hilary Hall said the announcements were “very welcome” but added the chancellor’s decision to defer wider reform of business rates until 2017 was “a missed opportunity”.

The NHBF has long argued business rates as they stand disadvantage industries, such as hairdressing and barbering, that have no option but to have a physical presence on a high street.

We’d like a model that takes better account of competition from online retailers, one that is more fairly balanced across town centre, out-of-town and online retail,” said Hilary.

The NHBF also expressed concern about reforms to apprenticeship funding announced by the chancellor.

As part of its wider reforms of apprenticeships, the government will be changing how apprenticeships are funded, with money going directly to employers “through an HMRC-led system” and with employers required to make a cash contribution.

But the cost and administrative burden of a direct funding system could be a “disaster” for small businesses, warned Hilary Hall.

“For most salon owners having to administer apprenticeship funding will be an unnecessary distraction from running their businesses, and will simply be one more thing on the already too long ‘to-do’ list small business owners face every day,” she said.

Following the Autumn Statement, communities secretary Eric Pickles announced a range of further measures designed to support the high street.

These included a consultation on “aggressive” parking policies, a review of policies around double yellow lines, the possibility of legislation to allow “grace periods” for people returning late to their vehicles and caps on increases in parking penalties.