4 September 2013

Council proposes new discount to help local businesses

Brighton & Hove City Council is proposing a new type of rate relief to support local businesses.

The Empty Property Occupation Discount would benefit businesses moving into long-term empty premises and help them become established.

Councillors will decide whether to go ahead with the scheme at a special meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee on 12 September. If agreed, the new discount would be available from 1 October.

Council leader Jason Kitcat, chair of the Policy & Resources Committee, said:  “We are committed to helping local businesses: We set aside £100,000 to create a new local business rate discount which would help small firms to set up in the city and bring long-term empty properties back into use. It is designed to help new occupiers when they have just moved into a long-term empty property by offering either significant discount while they build up their business.

“Brighton & Hove’s discount will provide entrepreneurs with another incentive to do business in the city which in turn will help create jobs.”

The discount would apply to a diverse range of smaller businesses, from shops and offices to medium-sized warehouses.

Under nationally-applied rules business rates have to be paid in full while a property remains empty. The new local rate would provide a discount for six months once the ratepayer occupies the property.

To qualify for the Empty Property Occupation Discount, the premises must have been empty for at least six months. New occupiers already liable for eight or more non-domestic properties in Brighton & Hove will not be eligible for the relief. This will effectively exclude multi-national companies and larger organisations such as the council and make sure the discount goes to smaller businesses.

Discounts would be based on simple criteria using the rateable value of a property and be weighted to provide more help to small and medium-sized businesses.

Those with a rateable value of under £6,000, already receive 100% discount in business rates under the current national Small Business Rate Relief scheme, but the local proposals would extend discounts to more businesses. These include businesses receiving a lesser amount of relief because their rateable value is between £6,000 and £12,000 as they could qualify for six months of zero business rates once they occupy an empty property. Slightly larger businesses could qualify for a 50% discount if their rateable value is under £35,000.

In August Brighton & Hove had 506 empty properties that could qualify for the discount. Potentially the discount would be available for 86% of properties, should any of these become empty long-term, as only a small proportion have a rateable value of over £35,000.

The new rate relief would be available until 31 March 2015 and reviewed after six months.


Further information

There are currently 9,691 properties that are liable for business rates, of which 1,321 have a rateable value above £35,000.

Read the report for the Policy & Resources Committee (Agenda item no. 47).