FSB wants a helping hand

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the government to help small firms, such as butchers, during the current economic climate with a number of reforming measures.

In a letter delivered to the front door of Number 10, Downing Street, FSB national chairman John Wright urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown to encourage more businesses to claim back on the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme (SBRRS), which they might be unaware of.

Wright said: "We have written to the Prime Minister about measures that we firmly believe would help small businesses meet today's critical economic climate.

"Business rate relief is money that small businesses are entitled to claim and, presumably, provision is made within the government's financial calculations for such claims to be made, so this could provide a significant boost for small businesses without affecting the government's budget calculations." The SBRRS, which gives a discount to businesses occupying commercial property, is not an automatic discount and has to be applied for.

"In a survey conducted by the FSB, in Essex alone, it was found that an estimated £48m goes unclaimed each year. Measures put forward by the government to help individuals, such as senior citizens and other claimants, are always accompanied by campaigns to ensure take-up is at an optimum. We feel the same urgency should be applied to the take-up of the SBRRS. The most cost-effective way of ensuring take-up of the SBRRS is by automatically applying the relief," added Wright.

The FSB also pleaded for a reintroduction of relief on the Rating (Empty Properties) Act 2007, where commercial property market owners pay rates on empty properties. Writing to Gordon Brown, Wright said: "We would urge your Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, to use her existing powers to respond to the downturn in the property market and reintroduce an element of rate relief for empty properties and for the rate bill on such properties to be reduced by 50%."

With party conference season soon approaching, the FSB said it will soon be lobbying politicians to sign up to its Keep Trade Local petition to preserve high streets' individuality.