On 22 March, the Government announced measures designed to alleviate the immediate financial hardship of small businesses in rural areas which have been badly hit by the effects of foot and mouth disease. Local authorities already have discretion to grant rate relief to businesses suffering from hardship. The Government have announced that the central government contribution to rate relief will be increased from 75 per cent to 95 per cent for small businesses in rural authorities, which are suffering hardship as a result of foot and mouth disease. Local authorities may also use their existing powers to defer or reschedule the payment of rates.
Businesses affected by foot and mouth may also apply to the Valuation Office Agency for a temporary reduction in their rateable value. Proposals should be made to the agency as soon as possible, but the Government have announced their intention to extend the deadline for making an application so that successful proposals received by 30 June 2001 may be backdated into the 2000-01 financial year, if appropriate.
On 19 March, the Government presented a Bill that will extend mandatory rate relief to all food shops with a rateable value below £6,000 in small rural settlements, and has said that it will lay regulations to extend mandatory 50 per cent rate relief to sole village pubs and garages with a rateable value of less than £9,000.