Too few firms are aware of Small Business Rate Relief, new study shows

  • 13/11/2014

Barely half of small firms quizzed know they can claim SBRR from their local council

A new study of small businesses has shown huge numbers remain in the dark about how to apply for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR).

The Federation of Small Businesses polled members on the subject and discovered 49% did not know it was their local authority with the power to grant the relief, which can run in to thousands of pounds. While 29% of respondents said they were aware of this, only 22% were actually in receipt of SBRR.

Under the current relief arrangements, eligible ratepayers pay no rates on properties with rateable values up to £6,000, with a tapered relief between 100% and 0% for properties with rateable values between £6,001 and £12,000. The relief is, however, not applied automatically and has to be applied for individually.

Richard Gregg, the FSB’s Regional Chair for Manchester & North Cheshire, said:  “If almost half the of the businesses we polled are unaware councils can grant SBRR, then the authorities need to up their game when it comes to promoting it, especially as businesses have to apply for it.

“If all eligible firms in the region were applying and getting the relief they are entitled to, that would be a huge saving for many small business owners to invest back in other areas.”

The FSB also submitted Freedom of Information request with local authorities in Greater Manchester and North Cheshire to get a better understanding of how councils were managing SBRR. Only *Bury Council was able to answer all four questions submitted as part of the request. Other councils either did not record the data, or said it was exempt from FOI on cost grounds.

In Bury’s case it showed 356 businesses in the authority area applied for SBRR between January and September this year. In total, 284 of those requests were granted, which amounted to a huge £519,752 of relief.

The Federation’s FOI request also sought to ascertain how councils were promoting the relief scheme to businesses in their area. All said they were doing this, with the most common promotional **methods cited as either posting details on council websites and/or issuing guidance leaflets with annual bills.

Added the FSB’s Gregg: “While all the local authorities we asked claimed to be ‘promoting’ rate relief, it seems mostly to be low key, low impact methods being used. Our own research tends to suggest the SBRR message is not getting through loud and clear to small businesses, and the FSB would urge councils to take a more active approach on this. To run a mini campaign highlighting SBRR using social media would not break the bank, and there are other ways as well.”

He added: “We would also urge all small business owners to make some time to check whether they are eligible. Business owners could be doing more to help themselves, and if it’s a case of getting something for nothing, it’s well worth the time and effort, particularly as under new legislation, SBRR can be applied for over the phone without the need for a signed form.”

*For individual authority responses please use contact details below.

**Where information was provided.

Federation of Small Businesses