Closed petition Extend business rates relief to include every English language teaching school
Many ELT schools are excluded from the business rates relief scheme for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, despite providing educational holidays for 550,000 overseas visitors a year. Schools closed their doors as part of the national effort to keep people safe but now face financial ruin.
The Chancellor announced that all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England - those most impacted by Covid-19 - would benefit from a business rates holiday for the next 12 months. However, due to some unclear guidance from the Ministry of Communities, Housing & Local Government, many English language schools are being deemed as ineligible by local authorities. Without this relief, many schools will be lost along with the jobs that they support and other benefits they bring to the UK.
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This response was given on 15 March 2021
Business rates relief is targeted at the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors given the acute impacts of COVID-19 on them. A range of other measures to support ELT schools are available.
The Government is keenly aware that COVID-19, and the extraordinary measures that have been taken to prevent its spread, present an unprecedented challenge for businesses, including those sectors that depend heavily on overseas tourism for their income. The Government has supported businesses and jobs through the COVID-19 crisis through an unprecedented support package, including grants for smaller businesses, Government-backed loans and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and English Language Schools are encouraged to make full use of the extensive support currently available. The Spending Review also confirmed that the business rates multiplier would be frozen in 2021-22, saving businesses in England £575 million over the next five years, including ELT schools.
The Government has provided Local Authorities in England with discretionary funding through the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme, precisely so that they can support businesses, such as English Language Schools, which are not eligible for the grants for closed or directly affected businesses.
At the Spring Budget 2021, the Chancellor announced a further £5 billion of grant support, including an additional £425 million of discretionary funding, taking the total allocated under the ARG to over £2 billion. It is up to each local authority to determine eligibility for this scheme based on their assessment of local economic need; however, Local Authorities are encouraged to use their ARG allocations to support businesses which have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, but which are ineligible for the other grant schemes. You can find more information on grants here: https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder
The retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have felt a serve impact, and it is right to offer them exceptional assistance to meet the crisis. At Budget 2020, the Chancellor announced a business rates holiday for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, irrespective of rateable value, so that all eligible businesses will pay no business rates for 12 months, providing over £10 billion in business rats relief in 2020-21. At the Spring Budget 2021, the Chancellor extended the business rates holiday for three months, with up to 66% relief until March 2022, worth over £6 billion.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published guidance for Local Authorities on the implementation of the business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. This includes definitions of properties that will benefit from the relief, though it is for individual Local Authorities to make decisions on eligibility for the relief in their own area based on this guidance.
As set out in the guidance, the expanded retail discount is targeted at premises that are wholly or mainly being used:
- as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues;
- for assembly and leisure; or
- as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.
This guidance is available online here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-rates-retail-discount-guidance
More broadly, as noted in the Government’s publication on 22 February 2021, which sets out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England, it is a Government priority to ensure that - when it is safe to do so - the UK will again be the destination of choice for international visitors from around the world. The Global Travel Taskforce will report on 12 April with recommendations aimed at facilitating a return to international travel as soon as possible. Following that, the Government will determine when international travel should resume, which will be no earlier than 17 May. In addition, the Global Travel Taskforce run last year committed the Government to publish a Tourism Recovery Plan in support of the sector. The Government intends to set out proposals in the Spring, including plans for a world class marketing campaign to welcome back visitors to the UK as soon as it is safe to do so.