Business rates relief extended in Scotland, British government urged to act

UK: The Scottish government has announced it will extend the business rates relief until March 31 2022, with UKHospitality calling on the British government to outline a clear reopening plan for hospitality.

Following confirmation of £1.1 billion coronavirus support funding from the UK government, finance secretary for Scotland Kate Forbes outlined plans to extend the business rates relief. 

Forbes said: “When I presented the Budget last month I made clear that if resources allowed, I would extend 100 per cent non-domestic rates relief for properties in the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors for all of 2021-2022. I am now in a position to provide that certainty to business, meeting the number one ask of the business community and demonstrating our commitment to supporting the economy. To ensure the resources are targeted at those who need it most, we are working with councils to ensure the application process will be live ahead of bills being issued.”

UKHospitality Scotland executive director, Willie Macleod, said the move will “provide continued support for hard-pressed businesses and give them breathing room to plan ahead with some more certainty.”

He continued: “Our recovery will be enhanced immeasurably if the UK government extends the VAT cut for hospitality, giving businesses an even better chance of survival. It will give many employers vital support to keep jobs open and put them in a much stronger position to help lead the economic recovery of Scotland this year.”

Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak now faces pressure to announce similar measures.

John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers, said: “Yet again the Scots seem to be leading the way in terms of allocating business rates reliefs to sectors hit hard by the pandemic. We urge the Chancellor to take a similar path when he announces measures in the March 3 Budget, but also to consider the plight of other sectors badly impacted including offices and manufacturing.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to outline a ‘roadmap for recovery’ on Monday 22 February. He’s recently been criticised by hospitality leaders for stating yesterday that the hospitality sector will be one of the last to reopen as venues have “extra risk  of transmission.”

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls wrote on Twitter there was “simply no evidence to justify this” and the organisation is now calling on the government to provide a clear reopening plan for the industry.

She explained: “A delayed reopening will come at the cost of even more jobs and more business collapses – this is an industry that is clearly already on its knees and that has already lost one million jobs, including those lost amongst our ailing supply partners. Prolonged closure risks the longer-term economic recovery and also makes no sense on the grounds of safety. There is no valid reason for hospitality to be at the back of the queue as data shows hospitality venues are very low risk due to the exceptional investment that businesses have made in creating safe and Covid-secure environments.

“It’s clearly important the government follows the data, and we understand the point, but the data is showing that we can move swiftly, safely and sustainably to reopen hospitality in April. Businesses need firm dates to plan their reopening strategies, so they can bring back staff, negotiate their rent with landlords and re-engage with all their suppliers. We urge Government to provide that certainty and to underpin the recovery with business support: extending the 5 per cent VAT rate and the business rates holiday will stimulate consumer demand and help reduce costs. These measures are vital in returning hospitality to being an engine of economic and employment growth.”

UKHospitality has provided a 10-point roadmap plan to enable hospitality businesses to reopen in April. You can find further information here.

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