Business rates relief fund offers “false hope” to SMEs, says FSB

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has criticised the Government’s £300 million business rates relief fund, amid concerns that hundreds of businesses are still waiting to benefit from the scheme.

Mike Cherry, Chairman of the FSB, has voiced concerns that the initiative has offered “false hope” to many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who are facing business rates hikes.

Citing the group’s own research, he said that that approximately one in five SMEs were at risk of having to either sell their business or shut up shop when the hikes hit, due to a squeeze on their finances.

Pointing to separate data from property firm Gerald Eve, he added that of a total of £175 million had been allocated to councils under the business rates relief fund for the year to March 2018 so far.

However, despite this, more than £70 million is still yet to be passed on to local businesses, he said.

Mr Cherry said that for many SMEs, “the Chancellor’s £300 million hardship fund [had initially] offered a small glimmer of hope,” but that for most, this had turned out to be “false hope.”

Earlier this month, a survey carried out by the FSB found that British business confidence was waning.

It found that one in seven SMEs were expecting to shrink their business in the coming months, amid concerns that operating costs are on the rise and profitability is falling.