Welcome changes to business rates will benefit town centre retail and hospitality sector


Shop and restaurant owners in Bedford will see their business rates reduced after the government chose not to increase rates by inflation.

In what has been hailed as the first step towards business rate reform, rates for retail and hospitality premises will fall from 1 April 2023.

The news has been welcomed by business leaders and owners as well as Bedford Borough Council which collects the rates on behalf of the government.

The change has come after the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) revalued the rates that all businesses pay and the government chose not to increase rates by inflation.

Central Government sets business rates, and Bedford Borough Council is required to collect them. The Council then only keeps 49% of the business rates that it collects, 50% goes back to Central Government and the remaining 1% goes to Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue.

Alongside the revaluation, recipients of the Council’s Retail, Hospitality and Leisure business rates relief will see their rate of relief rise under the scheme, increasing from 50% to 75% during 2023/24.

This relief will be subject to a cap of £110,000 per eligible business.

Both these changes will benefit businesses in Bedford Town Centre by helping to reduce the pressure from business rates and encourage others to invest in the area by opening their own businesses.

“The 75% reduction in business rates for Foxy Wings is huge,” said co-owner, Tim Edwards. “As the cost of ingredients, staffing and energy continue to squeeze businesses, this is a very welcome relief and should give us a little breathing room.

“Things a definitely brightening up from where we were in October/November last year.”

Foxy Wings at Riverside Bedford (image Facebook/Foxy Wings)

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has long been campaigning for business rate reform. Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the BRC, said: “The Government’s interventions on Business Rates have been positive for retailers, and they represent the first step towards a more fundamental reform of the broken business rates system.

“The changes will reduce upwards pressure on prices in the short term, and will help retailers protect jobs, keep shops open, and protect the vibrancy of local communities.”

The changes have been welcomed by the Borough Council which has also been pressuring the government to take action.

“Business rates are set by central Government and should have been changed sooner,” said Councillor Henry Vann, portfolio holder for town centres and planning.

“However, we welcome these changes by the government’s Valuation Office, which demonstrate that the ongoing concern we and many others, including local businesses and national small business organisations, have voiced about the high level of rates that our businesses pay has been listened to and acted upon.

“In Bedford Borough, we offer the maximum small business rate relief we are able to as a Council. While we would have liked to have seen the changes sooner, this should give businesses cause to celebrate yet another great reason to come to Bedford, with business rates reducing in our town centre, supporting those who own or are looking to set up a business.”

Bedford Borough Council will be contacting businesses directly to make them aware of their new charges in the next few months.

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