Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill House of Commons, Second Reading, 16 July 2020

The Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill seeks to provide 100 per cent business rates relief for standalone public lavatories in England and Wales. This includes publicly and privately owned, free to use and charging for entry lavatories.


Key Messages

  • We support the Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill which seeks to provide 100 per cent business rates relief for standalone public lavatories in England and Wales. This includes publicly and privately owned, free to use and charging for entry lavatories.
  • Currently all public lavatories, as non-domestic properties are liable to pay non-domestic (business) rates, unless they have been specifically exempted or otherwise removed, for instance by a statutory relief from liability.
  • In addition, local authorities cannot currently give discretionary relief to public toilets owned by themselves or preceptors such as counties or parish and town and councils. This is because they are statutorily barred from giving discretionary relief to any premises owned by themselves or by preceptors under Section 47(9) of the 1988 Local Government Finance Act. They can give discretionary relief to public lavatories occupied by the private or voluntary sectors.
  • It is important that local authorities are compensated for this and other mandatory reliefs. The Local Government Association (LGA) would welcome a wider debate about other council premises where they are also statutorily barred from giving discretionary reliefs by section 47(9) of the 1988 Local Government Finance Act.
  • For example, council owned and occupied markets cannot benefit from the current expanded retail discount of 100 per cent for the year 2020/21. We have heard from council market operators and the National Association of British Markets that this unfairly penalises them. Another example is nurseries owned or occupied by councils who have not been able to access the relief for nurseries.
  • Given the financial pressures on local government and the predicted funding gap, councils want to see a business rates system that is fair and promotes growth through incentives. It should command confidence and provide sufficient income to keep up with the demand for services. Sectors such as online businesses should make a fair contribution either through a change to business rates valuation or through some form of taxation of online business activity where the proceeds go to local government.
  • We have called for councils to be given maximum flexibility to target reliefs to suit local circumstances, particularly for reliefs which are currently mandatory, such as charitable, empty property and small business rate reliefs. If local authorities had more discretion in this area, they would be able to help local and independent businesses in order to stimulate the local economy.
  • Business rates is one of the largest sources of incomes for councils and the Government should consider how we maximise this revenue stream for councils. The LGA’s Business Rates Avoidance report calls on the Government to work with local government to maximise the business rates tax base and to tackle business avoidance effectively along the lines of those being introduced in Wales and Scotland.

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