Small antiques shops and art galleries have been given a reprieve on business rates with Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announcing a cut by a third for many small businesses.
Hammond said for the next two years all retailers with a premises valued at £51,000 or less will see their bills cut by a third – meaning “up to an £8000 saving for around 90% of independent retailers”.
Antiques dealers have often cited escalating business rates and rent as an increasing problem for the sector, particularly in wealthy areas where property values have risen.
Many dealers who have decided to close their retail premises have cited business rates as a major reason for the decision.
“Heart of communities”
Hammond said the “high street lies at the heart of many communities… but it is under increasing pressure as Britain adopts online shopping… The change our high streets face is irreversible”.
In response he announced the Future High Streets Fund - £675m for councils to support local High Streets.
Marco Forgione, BADA chief executive, said: “We welcome the announcement of a cut in business rates. It will have an impact for a large number of BADA members and art and antiques dealers. We also welcome the investment of the Future High Street Fund. We urge local authorities to look to support art and antiques dealers who act as a real draw and a hub for local high streets.”
“Too little, too late”
Despite the change to help small retailers, some art galleries believe it comes too late to help.
Rountree Tryon director Jamie Rountree closed its large central London gallery earlier this year to concentrate on its Petworth premises.
He told ATG: “My immediate response is ’too little, too late’ - business rates and the greediness of landlords has already put paid to the original St James’s art dealer model where passing trade pays for the gallery expenses.
“Only high-value galleries in areas such as the contemporary market are able to model their business plans to solely accept large annual rental payments with business rates attached.
“It would be a better strategy to give local councils the ability to cut business rates for certain specialist trades in order to keep niche areas in business.”
The amount a business has to pay in rates is calculated by the premises’ ‘rateable value’ – this is the open market rental value, based on an estimate by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
The next re-valuation of properties is in 2021 and the cut to bills is valid until that date.