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16 August 2017

Business rates consultation is opportunity for small businesses in Wales to have their say

Business rates bills have been an important issue for small businesses in Wales this year. The delayed rates re-valuation saw a significant change in rates bills for some businesses, with some bills showing a steep increase.

Earlier this year, Welsh Government announced an extension to the business rates relief scheme which was targeted at high street businesses. FSB welcomed this news and wrote to every local authority in Wales asking them to clarify how they would implement the relief and to communicate this as quickly and effectively to businesses as possible. Some local authorities have been very responsive with their plans to support small businesses, whilst others have failed to be so forthcoming.

Despite welcoming the rates relief scheme, FSB Wales has met with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, Mark Drakeford, to open up a conversation about how the business rates system as a whole needs to be overhauled. The business rates system is no longer fit for purpose in the long term, and following the UK Government budget which announced an overarching review of the scheme, we have asked Welsh Government to follow suit and look at how we can make business rates more effective for Welsh Government, local authorities, and most importantly for small businesses.

The Welsh Government has now published a consultation on business rates, calling for contributions by the 13th October. FSB Wales is urging all members affected by business rates to engage with the consultation and to tell the Welsh Government what they think that the future of business rates needs to look like. As Wales’ biggest business organisation, we will be submitting a response from FSB to the consultation in order to ensure that the voice of small business is heard loud and clear, but Welsh Government needs to hear from businesses directly, too.

The scope of the consultation poses questions such as whether businesses which have multiple sites within one area should be exempt from relief. FSB Wales would support moves to withdraw business rates relief from national chains with several sites. The consultation suggests that money saved by this change could then be reinvested to support small shops, cafes and restaurants that only operate from one or two sites.

FSB will be consulting with our members in the coming weeks to find out more about whether this is the kind of intervention small businesses are seeking from Welsh Government on business rates, or whether something different is required.

One clear aim for the new business rates system should be that it provides certainty and stability for businesses in the future. Businesses owners should be able to plan so that they can develop and expand their business, and the business rates system plays an important role in this. We will discuss the issues raised in the consultation and the wider business rates scheme with our members and look forward to feeding into the Welsh Government’s plans. We urge small businesses across Wales to take part in the consultation and respond to the issues raised, in order to ensure that the business rates scheme is as reflective of the needs of the small business community as possible.

We need a business rates system that works for small businesses, and only the voice of small business can ensure that we get the right outcome from this consultation.


This article first appeared as a column from Janet Jones, FSB Wales Policy Chair, in the Western Mail in August 2017.