Councils urged to swiftly distribute £300m business rates relief fund

A £300m fund to help firms facing the biggest business rates hikes needs to be distributed "as speedily and fairly as possible", an industry body has said.

Announcing the fund in the Spring Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond said the cash would allow councils to provide "discretionary relief" to individual companies in their area.

The Federation of Small Businesses warned that with some firms facing "staggering" increases in their rates bill, there can be no delay in helping the worst affected by the revaluation that took effect on 1 April.

Mike Cherry, the FSB's national chairman, said the revaluation comes at a time when business costs are already spiralling due to "unprecedented" economic uncertainty.

"The promise of a £300m relief fund for local authorities to help those hardest hit is welcome. But we urge councils to make small firms aware of their allocation and finalise the mechanism for distributing it as soon as possible," he added.

"What we have to remember is that bills have already landed. That being the case, any firm that pays their full business rates without realising they qualify for relief should have their overpayment returned automatically, and swiftly."