The package includes:
- a new £1,000 business rates discount for small shops, restaurants and pubs for 2014-15 and 2015-16;
- a further extension of small business rate relief;
- a new reoccupation relief to help get empty shops back into use;
- the opportunity for firms to choose to pay bills over 12 month instalments to help them with their cash flow; and
- capping the annual indexation at 2% this year.
The £1,000 discount applies to eligible businesses with a rateable value of £50,000 or less, and is being delivered by local billing authorities using their Localism Act powers to provide new local discounts. In this case the entire cost will be met by central government. Local authorities are locally determining eligibility, given the diversity of different types of retail hereditament. The Department for Communities and Local Government published guidance on 29 January to assist local authorities in ensuring that eligible local firms receive the support they deserve.
Guidance to assist local authorities in their administration of the new reoccupation relief was published on 1 April. Ratepayers that move into retail premises that have been empty for 12 months or more will be eligible for an 18 month 50% discount off their rates bill. This reoccupation relief is intended to encourage reoccupation of shops that have been empty for a long period of time and to reward businesses that make this happen. Businesses moving into previously empty retail premises between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2016 should be eligible for this relief.