The Federation of Small Businesses has presented it’s letter to Downing Street, outlining key reasons why the government should ensure SMEs automatically receive commercial rate relief.

The FSB are campaigning for automatic qualification of the benefit because a significant proportion of SMEs are unaware of their eligibility. This has resulted in an estimated £200 million in business rate relief going unclaimed every year in England (figures according to the Forum of Private Businesses).

The rate is designed to lessen the burden of premises rate bills, which is especially important in the current economic climate. FSB’s national chairman, John Wright believes automatic rate relief could ‘provide a significant boost for small businesses without affecting the government’s budget calculations.’

The FSB’s letter to number 10 calls on the Prime Minister to introduce these provisions and reinstate the 50% reduction for entrepreneurs’ empty commercial property. These measures would be exceptional components of an economic revival package. The letter explains that these proposed measures would ‘help stimulate the economy and aid small business survival’. The letter goes on to say: ‘this crucial measure is being undermined by the fact that the relief is not given automatically by local authorities.’ The FSB suggests that urgency should be applied to the take up of the SBRRS. SME’s are entitled to the relief so ensuring they get it means the government can help secure the future of small businesses at no extra cost. The letter continues to outline the benefits of reinstating the full empty property relief, asserting that these measures can help to safeguard the life of SMEs.

This call for action comes at a time when the country is facing a very real threat of recession, and with the recent announcement of a ‘greater-than-expected’ downturn in manufacturing output. As recent figures show output to have declined by 0.2% (1.4% less than in 2007), the fall has been described as ‘disappointing’, particularly in view of the potential given by a weak pound. The state of manufacturing and the weakening home market clearly illustrates the impact sectors have on eachother’s ability to survive the downturn. This, alongside the Bank of England’s reluctance to cut interest rates means SMEs need every bit of help they can get, and making small firms aware of their eligibility to claim all available operating relief benefits could provide them with the life-ring needed to weather the storm.

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