The biggest talking point for the property sector from today’s Budget was about a measure that was not even mentioned – reform of business rates.
Property industry figures – and most mainstream business lobbying groups – have been urging the Chancellor to overhaul a system they see as extremely unfair and a brake on economic recovery, particularly as it punishes smaller firms.
However, despite intense lobbying on the subject it did not get a single mention.
Head of international property agents JLL’s Bristol office, which covers Swindon, Jeremy Richards called the Budget a “missed opportunity to announce a fundamental reform of the business rate system and align it with other tax policies announced today”.
He added: “In last year’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor threw the retail industry a bone by announcing a 2% cap and rate relief, but what struggling retailers would benefit from is an announcement about bringing forward business rates valuations and a guarantee about future valuations being undertaken on a more frequent basis.
“Our recent research highlighted that 40% of UK locations are losing out as a result of the deferral and further damage to the UK high street is inevitable if revaluations are delayed in the future.”
However, he did welcome the extension of the deadline by which businesses will need to have located in an Enterprise Zone – including Bristol’s Temple Quarter – in order to claim business rate discounts to March 31, 2018, and the announcement of a new Development Investment Bank for small house builders and self-builders.
“The barriers to entry are too high for this group, which has weakened competition, innovation and importantly the ability to deliver higher volumes of new supply across the UK,” he said.
“This investment bank is exactly the sort of strategic intervention needed to expand housing supply.”