Rate relief for more than 750 Lancaster businesses

Lancaster City Centre
Lancaster City Centre

Hundreds of businesses across the Lancaster district will benefit from a business rate discount this year.

A government grant will give more than 750 business rate payers occupying properties with a rateable value of less than £51,000 around a third off their annual bill.

The discount has been welcomed by Lancaster Business Improvement District (BID), which it said would help to maintain the “thriving and unique” city centre.

Councillors agreed the policy, which will help small and medium sized businesses, at a meeting on Tuesday.

The council, which collects business rates on behalf of the government, will be reimbursed for expenditure.

The total grant for the Lancaster district is expected to be in the region of £850,000 and covers two financial years from April 1 2019.

Lancaster BID Manager Rachael Wilkinson said: “We are delighted to see positive steps being taken to reduce the burden of business rates to a number of small-medium size retailers in the city centre and across the Lancaster District.

“Any scheme which has the aim to reduce the costs of trading is likely to provide a boost to businesses on the high street. It is anticipated that around 150 of the businesses we represent in Lancaster city centre will benefit from this discount scheme, which will positively affect the business community.

“As 62 per cent of the businesses in Lancaster city centre are small to medium sized independent businesses, this change will positively contribute to maintaining the thriving and unique city centre in Lancaster.”

The retail relief is set to benefit many types of business including shops, restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments, however financial services, estate agents, employment agencies, medical services such as vets, dentists and doctors, solicitors, accountants, insurance agents and cinemas, theatres and museums are outside the scope of the scheme.

Coun Anne Whitehead, Cabinet member with responsibility for finance, said: “Creating strong conditions for growth so that businesses can thrive and create jobs is one of the council’s top priorities.

“This decision demonstrates the council’s commitment to assisting smaller retail businesses throughout the area, in recognition of changing customer behaviour on the high street.

“To maximise the impact of this support, the discount will be automatically applied to qualifying retailers and will appear on the bills for 2019/20.”

The council said: “The policy demonstrates the commitment to assist smaller retail businesses throughout the area with their bills, in recognition of the changing customer behaviour on the high street.

“Whilst initial estimates are a little vague as programmes are not yet in place for future year’s calculations, the policy is expected to benefit in excess of 750 ratepayers with total grant awarded in the region of £850,000.

This scheme forms part of the Council’s wider Local Discretionary Rate Relief Policy. It sets out the principles upon which the Council will administer retail discount for occupied retail properties with a rateable value of less than £51,000.

This document sets out the broad framework of principles to be used in decision making for this new scheme in line with Government guidance, covering two financial years from 1 April 2019 (i.e. ending on 31 March 2021).

The value of discount awarded will be one third of the bill (33.33%), to be applied after

mandatory reliefs and other discretionary reliefs funded by S31 grants have been applied.

Any retail discount granted under this scheme will be reviewed each year but normally expire on 31st March 2021, subject to a change in circumstances that falls outside the principles of the scheme (ie. property becomes empty, change of use) in which case relief will be

apportioned to the qualification dates.

Scheme Principles:

To qualify for Retail Relief a property must be:

 Occupied

 Have a Rateable value of less than £51,000 (this is shown on your Business Rate bill)

 Be wholly or mainly used for Retail Purposes as.

To qualify for the relief the business premises should be wholly or mainly being used as a shop, restaurant, cafe or drinking establishment. Properties that are occupied but not wholly or mainly used for the qualifying purpose will not qualify for the relief.

Properties considered to be retail for the purposes of this relief:

1) Properties that are being used for the sale of goods to visiting members of the

public:

 Shops (such as: florists, bakers, butchers, grocers, greengrocers, jewellers,

stationers, off licence, chemists, newsagents, hardware stores, supermarkets, etc)

 Charity shops

 Opticians

 Post offices

 Furnishing shops/ display rooms (such as: carpet shops, double glazing, garage

doors)

 Car/ caravan show rooms

 Second hard car lots

 Markets

 Petrol stations

 Garden centres

 Art galleries (where art is for sale/hire)

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2) Properties that are being used for the provision of the following services to

visiting members of the public:

 Hair and beauty services (such as: hair dressers, nail bars, beauty salons, tanning

shops, etc)

 Shoe repairs/ key cutting

 Travel agents

 Ticket offices e.g. for theatre

 Dry cleaners

 Launderettes

 PC/ TV/ domestic appliance repair

 Funeral directors

 Photo processing

 DVD/ video rentals

 Tool hire

 Car hire

3) Properties that are being used for the sale of food and/ or drink to visiting

members of the public:

 Restaurants

 Takeaways

 Sandwich shops

 Coffee shops

 Pubs

 Bars

The list above, whilst not exhaustive, is a guide as to the type of uses that the government

considers to be retail for this purpose. Relief will be granted for occupation that is broadly

similar in nature to those listed above.

As this relief is discretionary, the Council will not grant support in any case where it is not

considered appropriate to do so, for example where granting the relief would go against the

authority’s wider objectives for the local area (eg. sex shop).

Properties that are not broadly similar in nature to those listed above; or are broadly similar in

nature to those listed below will not normally be eligible for relief. However, the Council

reserves the right to consider favourably, individual businesses contributing to a healthy high

street, where the provision of service in the area to visiting members of the public is beneficial

to the community as a whole.

Properties not considered to be retail for the purposes of this relief:

1) Properties that are being used for the provision of the following services to

visiting members of the public:

as are nightclubs and music venues which are not similar in nature to the

properties described above. Properties used for sport or physical recreation (e.g.

gyms) are also considered outside the scope of this discount.

Decision Making & Appeals:

Where there is doubt in determining discount, the local authority will exercise their discretion

with reference to the above list, considering the interests of the ratepayer and that of council

tax payers in general, taking into consideration local factors.

In line with the Council’s wider rate relief decision-making arrangements all decisions regarding the

granting of applications of relief under this Policy are finally determined by the Deputy Director

(Customer Services)/Head of Shared Services under delegated powers.

Under the Local Government Finance Act 1988, there is no statutory right of appeal against the

Council’s use of discretionary powers. However, the Council will accept a customer’s request for

a review of its decision, with appeals to be presented to the Interim Financial Services Manager for

further consideration.

State Aid:

State Aid is any assistance or subsidy given to an organisation by the State (Central

Government, devolved administrations, regional and local authorities) or by companies and

agencies established by the state to distribute public support; which distorts or threatens to

distort competition (i.e. the organisation receiving the State Aid is in a stronger competitive

position relative to its competitors).

Under the De Minimus Regulations EC 1407/2013 the ratepayer is required to confirm if they

have received any other State Aid that when added together exceeds in total €200,000 (approx.

£181,000), including any other rates relief (other than exemptions, transitional or mandatory

reliefs) granted for premises other than the one receiving retail discount.

You do not need to complete a declaration unless you have received any other De Minimis
State Aid (this includes Retail Discount granted for other properties). However, if you have

received any other De Minimis State Aid, you should download a declaration form from the

website (link required) and complete and return the form to confirm that the award of Retail

Discount does not exceed the overall limit of €200,000.

For further guidance on State Aid please visit www.gov.uk/state-aid.

Retail discount will appear on bills for 2019/20, and it will be for qualifying retailers to make

statutory declarations in relation to receiving other de minimis state aid, or in refusing the retail

discount offered.