The announcement by Burberry that it will repay around £6 million in rates relief for its stores is the first such move by a non-essential retailer. This is in addition to the £300 million loan it has also repaid. This comes on the back of the big supermarkets also announcing a repayment of rates relief of £1.3 billion.
These funds should be used to provide additional rates relief to small and medium-sized retailers and those businesses in the hospitality industry which have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and not disappear into a Government black hole.
The Government now needs to provide a clear message on business rates post-April 2021 in the upcoming Spring Statement. This money should be used as part of a fund to allow further sector specific business rate concessions for 2021/22.
The Government should build on this good news story and provide clarity to the hardest hit businesses in retail, hospitality, and leisure as they seek to rebuild in 2021. Many of these businesses have exhausted the other support measures in place and have critically low cash reserves. Knowing that their rates bill will be reduced or extinguished would be a real boost and allow more of them to be viable and continue to trade in 2021.