News & Insight

Snap election cuts off small business relief fund

Max White

Electoral campaign dangles olive branch out of reach from despairing businesses

On Tuesday 18 April Theresa May announced plans for a general election, which will take place on 8 June. The Prime Minister said ‘political game playing’ by opposition parties threatens to ‘weaken the government’s negotiating position in Europe’ as it prepares for Brexit.

But for small businesses, it means a delay in access to vital relief funds. Aid that was supposed to be available in weeks, now might not be available for months – dangling the £300m olive branch out of reach, leaving the fate of thousands of UK businesses to hang in the balance once again.

What is the relief fund for?

More than half a million UK small businesses are facing rates increases this year. The amount a trader pays is dictated by the size of their property, and what they use it for.

The Department for Communities and Local Government says 520,000 ratepayers will see their bills increase. As a result, Theresa May’s government set up a £300m relief fund to soften the blow for the hardest hit businesses.

Why the delay?

Despite the Department for Communities and Local Government having completed its consultation on how best to implement the scheme, we will have to wait for the results. A spokesperson for the department said it would be up to the next government to publish their response.

With the general election not scheduled until 8 June and Brexit negotiations top of the political agenda, officials are concerned that small businesses will need to wait months before getting access to much-needed relief funds.

What does it mean for businesses?

“The relief fund was negotiated and designed to help those shouldering the biggest increases through the revaluation,” said Mark Rigby, CEO of business rent and rates specialists, CVS.

“For the distribution of that relief to now be delayed is an unhappy consequence of the general election and will cause grave concern to small businesses already worried about the burden they are facing.”