The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has become the latest trade body to react to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA)’s consultation on the business rates appeals system, warning the proposed new system may delay further root-and-branch reform.
ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said though the group are pleased to see the Government addressing the issue, there are concerns the focus may be drifting away from the 'once in a generation reform the Government has promised'. She highlighted that pubs on average currently pay just under £15,000 for their rates, with nightclubs paying around £26,000.
She said: 'There is a real danger that, unless transparency is provided earlier in the process, the Government may find itself dealing with numerous, time-consuming appeals that make life easier for nobody.
'Property costs for pubs and bars remain the second largest operational overhead and the ALMR’s annual benchmarking report shows them rising by 18% over the past decade. Reforming the appeal system is a small step on the way to change, but we need to ensure the focus remains on larger scale, meaningful reform.
'We are also concerned that the new system, which seems to place the burden of proof on the occupier, will add complexity to an already convoluted system. Evidence used to determine fair maintainable trade is not disclosed in the first instance to the businesses in question, and the new proposals do not oblige the VOA to provide this at the check stage.
'First steps on the road to reform show the Government is listening, but meaningful, root and branch reform must follow quickly.'
She added that any reform to the appeals system needs to give full disclosure of the rental valuation at the earliest opportunity.