Barclay Review Gets the Thumbs Down

Barclay Review

The Barclay review was published last month. The trade hoped it would offer up a few solutions to the issue regarding the unfair methodology currently used to assess licensed trade rates. Donald MacLeod, of the the Garage, has been quite vocal with his reaction to the report in the press. Here’s what he had to say in the Daily Mail.

It had been hoped that the Barclay review would bring effective, radical change to a failing and unfair system. But, from what I can see, all this will do is close premises.

At the beginning of the year the licensed trade and hospitality sector dominated the news as fear that of soaring business rates spread. Some faced rises of up to 400% with concerns jobs would be lost and businesses closed. Therefore it seemed likely this sector would play a crucial role in the conclusions drawn by the committee. But what was once front page news appears to have been relegated and ignored. I did not see a mention of the hospitality and licensed trade until page 116 of the 135-page report – under the title ‘Alternative valuation methodology for hospitality properties’.

And that is not even the worst part. The review failed to address the fears raised by thousands of firms across the country and looks like a waste of time. The group claims that during the months spent on the review and meeting those set to be hammered by rates it ‘failed to identify any alternative method of valuation that would be acceptable to all in the sector. Far from the ‘disappointing’ outcome they say this presents, it is outrageous.

The remit was not to find a solution that was ‘acceptable to all’, it was to build a fairer system. And this review has failed. It has completely missed the point.

Our trade has been hammered by the revaluation. This is because licensed premises are rated on turnover, while other firms are assessed on size. We are now in a position that when the cap on rate rises is lifted after the one year promise, bars, restaurants, pubs, clubs and hotels across the country will be facing these hikes again. And we have companies in fear of having to cut back, lay off staff or even close their doors.

They claim the report is a ‘roadmap. It’s the worst roadmap I’ve ever seen in my life. It goes nowhere for our sector. The trade has had meetings and tried to get our point of view across, but we have been relegated to page 116 – an annex. That is pathetic.

This report has shocked me, and most of my peers, who hoped our months of meetings and calls for change had been heard. Instead of listening to us they have sidestepped the issue and the licensed trade is being penalised by the rates system.

I have said in the past that we are being mugged and this just feels like a nightmarish groundhog day that we have had no chance of awakening from. We asked for a radical overhaul, said change was needed to put everyone on a level playing field. But we have been ignored. I accept an attempt has been made to bring more transparency but there has been a failure to create a fairer system.

There are thousands of businesses which are exempt from paying rates because of the Small Business Bonus Scheme – and this review has agreed that this should be limited.

There are other recomm-endations which I welcome. The move to have revaluations every three years is positive. I also agree with the plan to have private schools, golf clubs and council arm’s length-facilities – such as leisure centres – paying full business rates.

Another clause recommends allowing rates to be put on hold for 12 months for firms making significant investment in their properties -but there is no clarity on what this actually means.

Companies will make a significant investment this year…and the year after and the year after if that staves off or reduces their rates bills.

As a trade we must now discuss where we go next. Appeals against higher bills are already in, but these could take up to 18 months with assessors already dealing with thousands of requests.

The review is like Monty Python’s 100 yard dash for those with ‘no sense of direction’ sketch – it is a road to nowhere. I really do fear for the whole sector.

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