The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has hit out a the slow pace with which local authorities have made millions of pounds worth of business rate relief available to the pubs and restaurants that need it.
The comments came after the association surveyed a sample of 25 local authorities and found that 22 have yet to develop a scheme to develop discretionary relief worth £31m.
The ALMR said it had also found no evidence of any councils issuing the £1,000 pub-specific relief, worth potentially £25m to the sector.
But the Local Government Association (LGA), the body that represents local authorities, blamed the uncertainty of the general election for the delayed response of its members.
The government promised a package of support, announced at the spring Budget, to help hospitality businesses cope with the changes to business rates. That included £1,000 in relief for pubs with a rateable value of £100,000 or below and a £300m discretionary fund for local authorities.
However very few businesses have received the relief to which they are entitled under the scheme, according to ALMR analysis.
ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The fact that this relief has been made available to local authorities and is still not getting through to where it is most needed, proves we need immediate and wholesale reform of a broken system.
"Pubs and restaurants are in urgent need of financial assistance and have already seen some closures across London due in part to spiralling business rates bills and these delays risk others suffering the same fate.
"Local authorities are sitting on money that has been earmarked for hardworking and very hard-pressed businesses. In some cases, those local authorities that have devised schemes for discretionary rates have excluded pubs, the very businesses that have been hardest hit. Councils need to make their relief schemes as fair as possible, and be free from restrictions or red tape as businesses of all sizes and trading styles are in need of support.
"Recent consumer research by Camra showed that the majority of customers agree that eating and drinking out venues need support. Local authorities risk the closure of vital social and economic hubs if they do not act immediately."
Responding to Nicholls' comment, a spokesman for the LGA, which comprises local authorities in England and Wales, said: "This has been a complex exercise for councils. Uncertainty caused by the calling of the General Election led to late government confirmation of the funding and rules around how it should be distributed. This has been compounded by delays caused by the time taken by suppliers to make software changes which has made it more difficult for councils to plan and administer the schemes effectively.
"Councils are working hard to launch schemes in their areas as quickly as possible."
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