ALMR: Business rates reform an issue as industry struggles with costs

ALMR: New appeals system must not derail further reform

The ALMR has responded to the Valuation Office Agency’s consultation on the business rates appeals system by welcoming the Government’s pledge for reform but raising concerns that the proposed system may delay further root and branch reform.

According to the ALMR, pubs and bars have had to contend with rate increases of almost 20% over the past 10 years, putting extra financial pressure on their businesses.

Chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “We are pleased to see the Government addressing the issue of reform in this area, but we are also worried that the focus may be drifting away from once in a generation reform the Government has promised.

“Property costs for pubs and bars remain the second largest operational overhead and the ALMR’s annual Benchmarking Report shows them rising by 18% over the past decade. The average pub currently pays just under £15,000 with nightclubs paying over £26,000. Reforming the appeal system is a small step on the way to change, but we need to ensure the focus remains on larger scale, meaningful reform.”

Nicholls added that the ALMR is also concerned that the new system, which seems to place the burden of proof on the occupier, will add complexity to an already convoluted a system.

“Evidence used to determine Fair Maintainable Trade is not disclosed in the first instance to the businesses in question, and the new proposals do not oblige the VOA to provide this at the check stage. There is a real danger that, unless transparency is provided earlier in the process, the Government may find itself dealing with numerous, time consuming appeals that make life easier for nobody.

“Any reform to the appeals system needs to give full disclosure of the rental valuation at the earliest opportunity. Only then will it help reduce administrative burdens for businesses. First steps on the road to reform show the Government is listening, but meaningful, root and branch reform must follow quickly.”

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