"Most business premises with a rateable value up to £6,000 will not pay any business rates and most of those with a rateable value between £6,001 and £12,000 will receive rate relief that will be reduced on a tapered basis. This means that business premises with a rateable value of £8,000 will get around 66% rate relief; whilst those with a rateable value of £10,000 will get around 33% relief."
Of course for small businesses in Wales this is very welcome news indeed - however in order to fully assess its value we need to understand how the previous relief scheme stacked up against other regions in the UK (as due to the devolved structure of the UK, England, Scotland and Wales all now have different Business Rates relief schemes).
All businesses make a contribution to local government services through what is known as 'Non Domestic Rates' (a.k.a. 'Business Rates') based on a valuation of their property by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). The rates payable are calculated by multiplying the valuation of the property by a 'multiplier' determined each year by either the Welsh Assembly Government in Wales, the Communities and Local Government Department in England, and the Scottish Executive in Scotland. Accordingly, if a property used by a business in Wales has a rateable value of £20,000 for example, its business rates bill would be calculated by multiplying £20,000 by the Wales multiplier (40.9 pence in the pounds for 2010/11) giving the business a bill of £8,180 for 2010. However, in order to help small businesses in particular, each of the regions operate a relief scheme whereby eligible businesses are given discounts on their bill according to the rateable value of their property. Below is a summary and comparison I have made of the various business rates relief schemes as currently operated in England, Scotland and Wales:
|Click to enlarge|
However, as I noted at the beginning of this post, the Welsh Assembly Government has now introduced an increased relief scheme for Wales which will lift all businesses with a rateable value less than £6,000 out of paying business rates at all - great, right? Well, up to a point, yes - but the fact is that the WAG scheme is identical in all particulars to the one announced (pdf) in England in July this year. And because WAG has anyway set a slightly higher multiplier for Welsh businesses (40.9p compared to 40.7p in England and Scotland), Welsh businesses still have to pay more than their English and Scottish counterparts - as the following calculations based on the temporary relief scheme show:
So, in conclusion, it would be curmudgeonly of me not to welcome the new levels of business relief in Wales - they are sorely needed. However it is essential that we recognise that small businesses in Wales are still at a competitive disadvantage compared to small businesses anywhere else in the UK.
Small businesses are the backbone of the Welsh economy - they employ more people and contribute to their localities by complementing and supporting other local businesses. With an overlarge Public Sector in Wales it is essential that we do everything we can to grow our homegrown small businesses - however, as the above comparisons show, in the one area where the Welsh Assembly Government has complete freedom to create a competitive advantage for our small businesses, it has comprehensively failed. And our AM, Ieuan Wyn Jones, as Minister for Economy and Transport, has to take a large part of the responsibility for that.