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18 February 2021

Renewed Calls For Chancellor To Extend Rates Relief For Local Newspapers

Calls have been renewed for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide a vital lifeline for local journalism by extending the business rates relief scheme for local newspapers in the budget on 3 March.

Rates relief schemes are in place for local newspapers in both Northern Ireland and Scotland but so far the UK Government has yet to implement the scheme, which would provide a vital boost for local journalism.

The Scottish Government announced this week that newspapers will benefit from 100 per cent relief for a further 12 months after Holyrood voted for rates relief for local newspapers to be extended. The motion for debate was tabled by Conservative MSP Graham Simpson.  

The News Media Association has called on the Chancellor to extend the business rates relief scheme for local newspapers, warning that title closures are imminent if Government support for the industry is not forthcoming, as part of a package of measures to support the industry.

In response, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman wrote to the NMA earlier this month to say that officials were examining the ideas for support laid out in the letter. 

Mr Norman said: "I am also grateful to you for drawing to my attention the issues set out in your submission ahead of the Budget. My officials are examining your ideas and suggestions.

"The Government keeps all tax policy under review and regularly receives proposals for sector-specific tax reliefs. When considering any new tax reliefs, HM Treasury must ensure they provide support to businesses across the economy in a fair way and represent good value for money for the taxpayer.

"While it would not be appropriate to respond in detail to the points you make at this stage, I can assure you that your suggestions have been noted."

And this week, in response to a Parliamentary written question from Labour MP for Slough Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi asking what plans the Chancellor has to extend business rates relief to local news publishers., Mr Norman said that the Government recognised that local newspapers “are at the heart of civic life for communities.”

Mr Norman added: “This year the Government has provided an unprecedented business rates holiday for eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties due to the direct adverse effects of COVID-19, worth over £10 billion, and has frozen the business rates multiplier for all businesses for 2021-22.

“The Government has provided various schemes to support firms, including wholesalers, including Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans, Bounce Back Loans, grants and VAT deferrals. The Budget will set out the next phase of the Government's plans to tackle the virus, protect jobs and support business.”

Mr Singh Dhesi tabled a series of Parliamentary questions asking various Government Ministers about their plans to support local news.