Council set to discuss business rate relief

    COMPANIES in Tunbridge Wells which were hit hard by the recent hike in business rates may see some relief towards the end of the summer, it can be revealed.

    The Borough Council is currently drawing up the criteria for who will be eligible for rate relief after disclosing that it has received £269,000 for the 2017/18 financial year in order to soften the blow for those establishments particularly stung by the hike.

    But the amount of money available to help struggling firms is set to diminish rapidly, falling to just £8,000 in three years’ time, a council spokesman has warned.

    The money has come from the £300million Chancellor Philip Hammond set aside in order to quell the growing backlash in the business community over the rises, which were felt to be particularly punitive for companies based in London and the South East.

    Some establishments in Tunbridge Wells saw their rateable value more than double in April.

    At the time Jo James, Chief Executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, warned that the ‘perfect storm’ of increasing rates, rents and rising inflation will leave ‘large holes’ in the high street.

    However, it has been reported that not a single penny of the central government fund has yet been handed out because local authorities have been left to formulate their own criteria over who will be eligible to receive the money – a task many have yet to complete.

    A council spokesperson said: “The additional government funding is £269,000 for 2017/18 but reduces to only £8,000 in three years time.

    “As there are over 4,000 business in the borough it will be necessary to set criteria for directing these funds to those businesses that are most adversely affected by the change in rateable values calculated by the Valuation Office Agency.

    “To get these funds distributed as soon as possible to businesses we expect there to be an urgent Item at the Cabinet meeting on August 3, the criteria for distributing the funds will be set out in the Cabinet report.”