The government has dismissed a request from the NAEA and ARLA Propertymark to review business rates for agency offices on High Streets by sending a standard letter in response - and the letter is so general it doesn’t even contain the word ‘agent’.
Last month both trade bodies wrote to the government in unusually forthright terms, telling the then-Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom that lettings and estate agents fall under the category of ‘offices’ for business rates, despite being prominent shop front premises on High Streets.
The Propertymark organisations wanted Leadsom to extend the small business retail discount to include estate and letting agents.
However, Leadsom - in a response sent just before she was sacked in last week’s Cabinet re-shuffle - appears to have dismissed the request with a standard letter that appears to have no specific element about agents’ offices.
The letter, reproduced on the Propertymark websites, reads: “The Government is committed to backing small and medium-sized enterprises and particularly those on our high streets and in our town centres, enabling them to grow and create jobs.
“Although the discount does not apply to a range of other business types, the retail discount is just one part of the Government's wide-ranging business rate reforms.
“The Government recognises the important public benefit that other businesses may bring to the communities in which they operate and believes that it is right that support is available to those businesses through the local authority. Local authorities have been given greater flexibility to support businesses, through the Localism Act 2011. The Act enables local authorities to offer business rate discounts as they see fit.
“Decisions on granting local discounts are a matter for authorities. A ratepayer may therefore wish to raise any request for rate relief with their local authority, who will be best able to consider any request and consider the benefits the business brings to the local community in which it operates before making any decision.”
However, Propertymark insists it is not deterred by the response.
As part of its formal representation ahead of next month’s Budget, submitted to the Treasury last week, the trade bodies reiterate their concern and again asked for government to make the retail discount available to both lettings and estate agencies in order to retain and promote growth not only of the sector but of local High Streets.
The organisations also want agents with evidence of the impact of business rates to share their views, by emailing email@example.com.