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Government tears up the rating handbook in "shocking" treatment of businesses


The Government has announced a package of Business Rates Relief to be distributed by Local Authorities.

View the announcement here

Key points from the announcement are as follows:

  • New Business Rates relief fund of £1.5 billion for businesses affected by COVID-19 outside the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors.
  • Targeted support delivered as appeals against rates bills on basis of material changes of circumstance due to the pandemic to be ruled out.
  • The relief fund will get cash to affected businesses in the most proportionate and equitable way.
  • The £1.5 billion pot will be distributed according to official data on the impacts of the pandemic on different sectors, ensuring an even and more proportionate allocation of support across England based on the economic impacts of COVID-19 and not on estimates of the impact on a property’s value.
  • We’ll work with and support local government to enable ratepayers to apply as soon as possible this year, once the legislation relating to MCC provisions has passed and local authorities have set up local relief schemes.

Unfortunately, whilst the headline sounds positive, business rates experts at Colliers are disappointed with this news.

The Government is going to legislate that MCC appeals for COVID-19 are not valid and therefore, as an example, businesses who have already received retail, hospitality and leisure relief will not be able to claim further.

In addition, the necessity to be able to demonstrate that a business has suffered an economic impact as a result of COVID-19 will mean that large groups of occupiers will miss out on the relief. Giving the Local Authorities the ability to decide who will be eligible for the relief is not prescriptive enough and we know from past experiences that Authorities all have different interpretations of the regulations. We also believe that this will be liable for the new UK-wide subsidy control.

John Webber, Head of Business Rates at Colliers went even further and said, “This is a staggering response by the Government to sectors that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 that would not be out of place in a Banana Republic.

The Government is ripping out the rule book retrospectively. It is the wrong thing to do on every level.

The Government’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA) spent the last part of last year negotiating with the agents of rate payers on the impact of Covid-19 and its effects on businesses, following the government’s  working from home and social distancing policies and agreed these constituted a MCC “Material Change of Circumstance” by which businesses would be able to claim a rebate on their rates bills.

To now deny this is a MCC retrospectively, because the numbers are too high is deeply shocking.

£1.5 billion will not even scratch the surface for businesses struggling to pay their rates bills from last year- over 400,000 of which have started the appeals process in what is “the largest MCC caused by a single event in rating history”.

“After three months of refusing to negotiate with us, to introduce retrospective legislation 12  months after rate payers first presumed they would see some hope of reduction and to change the rules like this makes a mockery of the whole appeals process and indeed the business rates system.”

“It’s unprecedented and deeply concerning not only for our clients, but all struggling businesses in the UK.”

View our Business Rates services

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John Webber

Head of Rating



I have over 35 years’ experience in the rating industry and lead a 135 plus rating team at Colliers.  When I took over responsibility for the team in 2005, it consisted of only a dozen people and has now grown into one of the leading rating advisory teams in the country.  I am a member of Colliers' UK Management Executive as well as sitting on the company’s Balance in Business Committee. 

I am regularly called upon by the national media to give my views on a range of business rates issues and I am involved in lobbying MPs/ministers and senior civil servants on business rates matters.

I started my career in the Valuation Office Agency in Kidderminster.  I joined Gerald Eve in 2000 where I spent 10 years before moving to Gooch Webster (now Colliers). I sit on the National Retail Panel of Rating Surveyors Association which provides guidance on how the RSA town committees work with the VOA and valuation matters.  I have also held the postion as Chair of the RICS Rating Diploma Committee having passed the prestigious qualification in 2014. I currently sit on the Rating Surveyors Association National Committee .

Along with Philip Harrison we founded 'Accurates' in 2007, the Collier's Compliance and Audit team, which although forms an integral part of the Rating team is now a leading brand in its own right.

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Suzy Simpson

Head of Content, Communications and PR


London - West End

As Head of Content, Communications & PR for Colliers in the UK, I am responsible for driving the strategic direction of corporate communications, media relations, and the programming and production of multi-channel content to engage external and internal audiences across the UK.

Get in touch for help with: 

  • Content Communication Strategy 
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