NEXT month’s business rates hike has been put on hold thanks to a package of measures aimed at reducing the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy.
The Scottish Government has announced a £320 million funding package, with measures including 75% rates relief for retailers with a rateable value below £69,000, which comes into effect on 1 April.
In a bid to mitigate economic damage from the virus, COVID-19, a 1.6% rates relief will also apply to all business properties in Scotland. This relief will effectively reverse the planned rates increase that was announced in this month’s budget – as well as an £80m fund to provide grants of at least £3,000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of COVID-19.
The measures have been welcomed by industry stakeholders. Dr John Lee, head of policy and public affairs at the Scottish Grocers Federation said: “SGF is fully supportive of and warmly welcomes this very prompt and bold package of support from the Scottish government. The rates reliefs announced by the government will enable convenience retailers to maintain jobs and ensure they provide customers and communities with vital services during this unprecedented crisis.”
David Lonsdale of the Scottish Retail Consortium praised the government’s engagement with business groups on the issue.
“It is very encouraging that Scottish ministers have listened to our representations and moved swiftly to work with local authorities to grant greater flexibility in shop and warehouse delivery time and in store opening hours.
“The supply of the vast majority of products remains as normal, however our grocery and pharmacy members in particular are dealing with very high demand for certain products and want to take every step possible to ensure the good stock levels in depots and the supply chain is delivered and on shop shelves at the earliest opportunity. These measures will contribute to ensuring everything possible is done to keep the shelves stocked,” he said.
Scottish Government finance secretary Kate Forbes said: “The measures I’m announcing will provide £320m of assistance to Scottish business and ensures that all Non Domestic Rate consequentials we expect to receive from the UK Government associated with the COVID-19 outbreak will be used to provide Scottish business with support through what is likely to be a difficult time. We will also be making the case to the UK Government that, because of the larger number of small businesses in Scotland, we need additional resources to be able to provide further support.
“Businesses receiving support are being encouraged to operate with fair work principles including supporting staff to self-isolate when they need to and if they have caring responsibilities and to consider keeping staff in employment where at all possible.
“We continue to work closely with our partners to identify what further support is needed and I’d encourage any businesses with questions relating to the impact of COVID-19 to contact the helpline we launched this week.”
Businesses seeking advice and guidance on COVID-19 are invited to contact the Scottish Government’s support line on 0300 303 0660. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am-5.30pm.