LONDON — Theresa May’s offer of extra help for small firms hit by planned hikes to business rates fell apart today after her aides admitted there is no new money available.
The prime minister appeared to offer new relief to businesses worried about the upcoming hike in business rates, following questioning by MPs.
“I recognise there has been particular concern that there will be some small businesses that will be particularly adversely affected by the result of this re-evaluation,” she said at prime minister’s questions.
“That’s why I’ve asked the Chancellor and the Communities Secretary to make sure there’s appropriate relief in those hardest cases.”
However, the apparent offer of new money fell apart within minutes after the prime minister’s spokesperson briefed journalists that there was in fact no new money.
They suggested that May had merely been referring to the existing transitional fund for those businesses worst hit by the business rate revaluation.
“We are mindful of the fact some companies are going to see their rates go up, that’s why we’re introducing this £3.6 billion transitional fund to ease that transition for those firms that are affected,” the PM’s spokesperson said.
“I think the Prime Minister was just making sure that assistance is going to the right areas.”
Asked if it was fair to say that no “new pot of money” is being offered to businesses, they replied: “Yes that’s fair.”
Labour urged the government to do more.
“There needs to be more support for these businesses,” Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesperson said.
“The impact on large numbers of small businesses is extreme and this government has favoured large businesses over small businesses again and again and this is another case of that.”
The government has come under increasing pressure to do more to support small businesses, some of which are set to be hit by rate hikes of up to 175%.