Welsh business rates appeal process 'failing businesses'

Original by Owen Hughes, Business Live - https://www.business-live.co.uk/economic-development/welsh-business-rat…

Welsh Government says it is now exploring reforms of the current system that is leading to delays of two years

 

The Welsh Government says it is exploring reforms of the business rates appeal process - with claims the current system is “failing businesses”.

Companies in Wales who feel their rates levels are unfair and out of date have been left waiting months and even years to get an appeal result.

The issue was raised in the Senedd recently by Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders, who is Cross-Party Chair on Small Shops.

She said the Valuation Office Agency was being paid more than £9m for non-domestic rating and council tax work in Wales for 2019-20 - but that the appeal service was not efficient.

Ms Finch-Saunders said: “As businesses across Wales, including here in Aberconwy will attest, timely service is not being provided.

“Some of my constituents have waited over two years since 2017 for their non-domestic rating appeals to be progressed.

“This is at a time when some cannot afford the amount of business rates that the VOA are saying they’re responsible for, and are having to balance wafer thin margins.

“Welsh Labour’s £9m agreement is failing Welsh businesses and harming our high streets, so I am pleased to have secured a commitment that the Service Level Agreement will be looked at by the minister responsible for legal advice.

“We have time to vary the existing agreement, and at least positively prepare for the next financial year.”

Business rates has been cited as a key issue impacting the retail sector with complaints that they don’t reflect the downturn in footfall and reduction in rent costs. But delays with appeals means firms face lengthy delays to secure any changes.

Counsel general Jeremy Miles last week responded in the Senedd, saying he would look into the matter.

When Business Post contacted the Welsh Government, they gave this response. A spokeswoman said: “We are currently exploring options for appeals reform in Wales.

“Last year we consulted with people from across Wales to understand their views on the proposed changes and we are now using this feedback to improve our system alongside revaluation in 2021.

“We are also working with stakeholders to explore fully the potential implications of these changes.

“We want a more efficient service which doesn’t put unnecessary burden on ratepayers, and enables genuine appeals to be processed quicker.”

The Valuation Office Agency was asked to comment on the delays but said due to election purdah rules they were not able to comment at this time.