§ Mr. Atkinson
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the entitlement to hardship relief for the unified business rate; and in what ways its availability is made known to businesses.
§ Mr. Key
Section 49 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 gives a charging authority discretion to reduce or remit the payment of non-domestic rates. But an authority may not give relief unless it is satisfied that the ratepayer would otherwise sustain hardship and it is reasonable to do so having regard to the interests of its community charge payers. Guidance has been issued to all authorities 637W but it is for them to consider the merits of each case and how the availability of relief should be made known to businesses. Seventy-five per cent. of the cost of any relief granted will be borne centrally by the non-domestic rates pool with the remainder being met locally by charge payers.