Rates help dismissed as spin

21 March 2001

Rates help dismissed as ‘spin’

By Donald MacPhail

RATE relief measures for rural businesses affected by the foot-and mouth crisis have been dismissed “spin” by a leading rural business consultant.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher, head of the Rural Task Force, announced a package to help businesses dependent on visitors on Tuesday (20 March).

But Christopher Monk, head of farming at rural business consultants Strutt and Parker, said there was little substance in this.

“Its a lot of spin and I dont think theres anything in this package which will help farmers in the next six months,” said Mr Monk.

The Government will consider increasing its contribution to rate relief from 75% to 95%, giving authorities an incentive to increase relief.

But Mr Monk said rates were due in a fortnights time, and so any future relief would offer little to a business with cashflow problems.

And provisions allowing applications for a temporary rate reduction and an extension of business rate deadlines would not help either, he said.

These were also lengthy processes which offered businesses no immediate financial benefit, said Mr Monk.

Mr Meacher also mentioned rate relief included in new legislation to encourage farm diversification.

Under the Rating Bill, non-agricultural businesses on farms will receive 50% mandatory rate relief – if the propertys rateable value is below 6000.

Fifty per cent rate relief is extended to food shops with rateable values below 6000 and sole pubs and filling stations with a rateable value below 9000.

And under the five-year scheme included in the Bill, local authorities will have discretion to boost rate relief to 100%.

But the rateable value cap is too low to benefit many business affected by the foot-and mouth crisis, says Bob Gardner, head of rating with chartered surveyors Humberts.

“This will be very disappointing for many businesses in rural areas.”

Mr Gardner added: “These measures will benefit only a small proportion of those affected, as the rateable value limit is very low and too specific.”

But the scheme offered farmers some comfort as it would enable them to let small buildings for non-agricultural use more easily, said Mr Gardner.

Agricultural land and buildings are exempt from business rates, but if they is used for any other purpose they become rateable.

Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage

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