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Council to receive government package to offer business rate relief to small firms

But council says it cannot say how many will benefit

West Berkshire Council logo

WEST Berkshire companies could benefit from a £551,000 Government package to offer relief to soaring business rates.

The discretionary pot of funding will be distributed to West Berkshire Council to alleviate the pressure some businesses will find themselves under following a revaluation of the rates.

Some businesses could see their rates bills double, or even triple, following the review.

The funding package, which was announced in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget, will see the district council awarded a total of £945,000 over the next four years to offer relief to local firms.

However, West Berkshire Council has said it is too early to tell which businesses, or how many, will be allowed access to the cash.

West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said the council was required to respond to a consultation by April 7 before details of how the funding could be allocated to local business are made clearer.

“At this juncture we are not in a position to say how many businesses will benefit,” she said.

Councils do not set business rates, but any likely rise in appeals as a result of the latest revaluation could pose a risk to the funding of the already cash-strapped local authority.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), more than one million businesses have challenged their bill since 2010 and more than 200,000 appeals are yet to be decided.

Newbury MP Richard Benyon welcomed the news, saying it would provide “some relief to local businesses”, but called for a change in the way the rates are reviewed.

He said: “The review of business rates is something I’m getting very involved with.

“The process used by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is utterly bonkers.

“I made it clear to the Chancellor that I really have it in for the VOA and the way they operate is completely contrary to Government policy.

“It values the business premises on what it would be valued if it was making micro-processors in those buildings.”

Chairwoman of the LGA Resources Board, Claire Kober, said: “We have long argued that giving councils the freedom and funding to set discounts and reliefs locally would help them better support small businesses and local economies.

“We are pleased local authorities will be able to work with businesses in their local areas to identify which need this new discretionary relief funding the most.”

West Berkshire Council currently keeps just 21 per cent of its business rates.

However, the Government will introduce changes to allow all local authorities to keep 100 per cent of their rates by 2020.

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