Two key hospitality industry associations have both revealed that they are stepping up pressure on the government to offer business rates relief to firms grappling with big proposed rises.
The changes in business rate, due in April after the first revaluation since 2010, have sparked serious criticism from hospitality firms concerned that they will bear the brunt of rises.
Today, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) said it was intensifying its push on the issue ahead of the Budget on 8 March.
Following a series of meetings in parliament on Monday, including the ALMR representing hospitality at a round table with Labour's front bench Budget team, chief executive Kate Nicholls addressed a TaxPayers' Alliance event in the evening.
On a panel of respected stakeholders, Nicholls led sector-wide calls on behalf of businesses facing crippling rate increases, reiterating the ALMR's three chief requests: the introduction of sector-specific relief for pubs and bars, a capping of bills increases at 12.5%, and retention of a robust and fair system for appeals.
Meanwhile, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said it had strengthened its call for a scheme of relief specific for pubs following last week's indications from the government that it would look again at the system of transitional relief for business rates.
BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds has set out key issues in a letter to business secretary, Sajid Javid. Simmonds said that immediate rates relief, alongside longer term reforms would build on the work already done by the government, in taking up earlier calls from the BBPA and others to provide more relief, and could give more community pubs a zero-rating.
Simmonds said: "Pubs pay 2.8% of the entire business rates bill, yet generate only 0.5% of business turnover. This is an unfair situation that needs to be addressed by a fundamental review. In the mean-time, targeted relief for the pub sector would help more pubs to deal with this burden in the short term. I hope the Government will take this on board in the Budget on 8 March."
Nicholls said: "Widespread and constructive change of the business rates regime can only be achieved if the government hears our message loud and clear. Our meetings today, and over the weeks and months, have been very fruitful in allowing us to present a strong, unified voice to policy-makers, ensure that our message resonates and hammer home the sector's demands for action.
"We have been meeting and engaging with senior MPs from both parties and we are buoyed by the enthusiasm being shown; our campaign has steadily gained momentum and coverage. We have a little over a week until the Budget Statement and we are confident that the message we have been pushing is getting through at the highest levels. We need a concerted effort from the sector to make sure that our efforts are capitalised one and that hardworking pubs, bars and restaurants are afforded the support they deserve."
Scottish government caps business rate rises at 12.5% >>
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