Battle for Business Rates Relief continues

November 28, 2023

The UK Warehousing Association has been battling for some time to make the case to government for warehouses to qualify for support on business rates.

In March we wrote to the Chancellor highlighting the unfairness of the proposed increase in business rates for warehouses and challenging the assumption that businesses with larger buildings require less support, a view that fails to recognise the reality of low-margin SMEs operating within the warehousing sector. Unfortunately, our case was ignored and business rates rose in April, by up to 70 percent for some of our members.

Measures announced last week in the Autumn Statement brought further disappointment. While the Chancellor has extended the 75% business rates relief on retail, leisure and hospitality properties, this is only up to a total benefit of £110,000 per business, and does not include suppliers to those sectors, such as third-party warehouses.

The new ‘Duty to Notify’, which is clearly another step towards self-assessment for business rates purposes, requires ratepayers to notify the VOA of any changes to their property within 60 days of completion after 1st April 2024.  In addition, every ratepayer must go online annually to confirm all the changes made in the previous 12 months, or to declare that no changes have been made.

UKWA CEO Clare Bottle comments, “It is a civil offence not to comply with the Duty to Notify requirements, so fines can be issued where no notifications are made or are made late, and it’s a criminal offence to give misleading or false information.

But here’s the rub – although the new rules come into play straight away, the VOA don’t yet have a system that ratepayers can use to notify them, and it seems there’s a long way to go before we will get a workable notification system.”

Other measures announced by The Chancellor, such as a new study aimed at making the electricity distribution network fit for net zero; and the joint action plan with Ofgem to expedite connection to the grid for viable projects, show a welcome commitment from the government to listen to UKWA  – responding as they do, to the Association’s recommendations around solar power on warehouse rooftops and the challenges those attempting to embrace solar have experienced in dealings with the DNOs (Distribution Network Operators).

Also good for the sector was the news that DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities) will be bringing forward plans enabling Local Authorities to offer guaranteed accelerated decision dates for major developments in England, with measures to improve transparency and timely decision making.

But, for now, UKWA’s battle over business rates continues.