THE last year has been tough enough for small firms with footfall down and cashflow hard to come by, but there is more bad news round the corner. Small businesses are set to be hit by the double blow of a dramatic 5.2 per cent rise in business rates and t

THE last year has been tough enough for small firms with footfall down and cashflow hard to come by, but there is more bad news round the corner.

Small businesses are set to be hit by the double blow of a dramatic 5.2 per cent rise in business rates and the end of the transitional relief period this year, which sees them having to pay their rates on the full rateable value of their property.

With 120 small businesses closing a day, the Government can help save many of these businesses and the jobs they create by immediately freezing the increase this year.

Losing the transitional relief in the final year is just making matters worse, and the FSB would welcome some flexibility from local authorities to give small firms the chance to pay the full amount in instalments.

Many businesses may not be aware that they are eligible for rate relief. As part of our Keep Trade Local campaign, the FSB has been urging the Government to make rate relief automatic, which would provide a welcome saving of up to £1,200 for eligible small businesses at no extra cost to the Government or the taxpayer.

A system similar to this already operates in Wales and has recently been adopted in Northern Ireland.

CHARLES SMITH

Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses

Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire region