Brighton and Hove businesses facing ‘cliff edge’ with end of rates holiday

Almost 200 small business owners across Brighton and Hove have joined Green MP Caroline Lucas in writing to Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking him to extend the business rates holiday due to end on March 31.

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 11:08 am

The business owners who have added their names to the letter run shops, restaurants, pubs, night-clubs, hotels, hairdressers, office services, cultural venues and many other small businesses in the city.

They say they face a cliff edge when business rates become due again from April. Even if restrictions begin to be lifted in the spring, many believe it will be sometime before trade returns to anything like pre-Covid levels.

One of the business owners, Peter Allinson who runs Whirligig Toys Ltd, said he thought it would take two years for footfall to return to normal. Another said an extension to business rates relief could be the difference between her business surviving or closing.

Brighton's clocktower. Pic Steve Robards

The letter says: “We are worried that the welcome support for businesses provided by the Treasury to date will be undermined if, as is likely, we cannot survive the demand for business rates to be paid from April.”

The letter also calls for reform of the business rates system so that physical shops are not taxed much more heavily than online retailers.

Ms Lucas, who represents Brighton Pavilion, said: “The fact that so many businesses have signed this letter shows what a knife-edge they are living on. Many of them have already made use of the furlough scheme, bounce back loans and other Covid support measures that the Government has introduced, and are only just hanging on.

“It is far too early to take away the lifeline of the business rates holiday, especially for sectors which will take some time to recover.

“It would be a disaster if, just at the moment when businesses can start to plan for their future, this vital support was snatched away pushing some of them over the edge.

“The Chancellor has to listen to the voice of small businesses who are so important to the economy across the country, not just in Brighton and Hove, and extend the business rates relief, filling the gap so that already financially-stretched councils don’t lose a critical source of funding.”

Ms Lucas and the business owners are asking the Chancellor to announce an extension to the business rates holiday in his Budget on March 3rd.