REACTION: Hunt extends business rate freeze for estate agencies

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has frozen business rates for small firms for another year in his Autumn Statement.

Jeremy Hunt -Autumn Statement business rates

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced an extended freeze on business rates for small businesses, as he delivered his Autumn Statement.

The ‘small business multiplier’ will be frozen for another year, he told the House of Commons.

Many independent and franchise high street estate agents will fall into the category of small businesses, so will benefit from the Chancellor’s announcement.


Self-employed agents will also benefit from Hunt’s decision to scrap Class 2 National Insurance and cut Class 4 NI by 1% to 8%.

He also announced that local housing allowance rates, which have been frozen for three years, will be increased to the 30th percentile of local market rents, giving 1.6 million households £800 in extra support next year.

Local housing allowance helps people on benefits pay their rent to a private landlord.

Speeded up

Planning decisions will be speeded up, Hunt said, with extra funding for local councils and fee refund promises if deadlines are not met.

National Insurance will be cut from 6 January from 12% to 10%, benefitting 27 million workers, the Chancellor said.

In other measures, he maintained the ‘triple lock’ on pension increases, and an increase in the living wage.


Link to 2021 Predictions feature

Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s property expert, says: “The lack of housing announcements feels like a missed opportunity to help home-movers and home-owners today, given the challenges this year with higher mortgage rates.

“Affordability-stretched first-time buyers in particular will be feeling forgotten, as they try to get onto the ladder with increasingly squeezed budgets and reduced support options. We hope the government will consider other measures to help the market in the spring budget.”

Richard Donnell, executive director at Zoopla, says: “While there is little that is housing specific in the Autumn Statement, the package of proposals should be welcomed by households, homebuyers and businesses as supportive for the housing market whose health is simply an extension on the wider economy.

“There are 30% fewer homes available to rent on Zoopla than in the pre-pandemic period as landlords have slowed purchases of homes in the face of tax changes and increasing regulation.

“Resetting the local housing allowance in line with the market is an important first step to supporting those under the greatest pressure from the chronic supply/demand imbalance in the private rented sector.”

Richard Davies, Chestertons business rates

Richard Davies, COO of Chestertons, says: “Aspiring homeowners will feel disappointed about the Autumn Statement not including measures to help property buyers.

“Many would have welcomed cutting Stamp Duty which would have resulted in house hunters, who previously paused their property search, to re-enter the market,” he says.

“We would have also liked to have seen the Chancellor introduce more initiatives to assist young house hunters get on the property ladder.

“To bring much needed relief to the lettings market, we would have liked to have seen the Chancellor announce tax incentives for buy-to-let landlords with the aim to boost the number of rental properties.”

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says: “All of the planning measures mentioned by the Chancellor are welcome.

“One of the issues in both the sales and lettings markets is the lack of choice, which is partly to do with a shortage of supply. Any measures which seek to alleviate that shortage will help to keep not just prices but rents, which have been rocketing, in check,” he says.

“We would have liked to have seen more direct help to encourage landlords in particular to stay invested and add to their portfolios, bearing in mind so many are providing accommodation for tenants on housing benefit on behalf of local authorities.”

Sam Mitchell, CEO of Purplebricks, says:”By failing to cut stamp duty and cut it permanently, the Government has missed an opportunity to set the already fragile housing market on a clear path to recovery.

“Rumours will now grow that we will see a cut in the spring, meaning decisions on buying and selling will be delayed and the economy will suffe,” he says.

“This has already been a difficult year for the property sector, and the lack of support will threaten a recovery in 2024.

“Despite this, the silver lining is the confirmation of the extension to the mortgage guarantee scheme. Not only does this support the green shoots we are already seeing in the lending market, but is great news for first time buyers, especially if coupled with the declining rates we are seeing in the market.”

Holding back

Tomer Aboody

Tomer Aboody, director of property lender MT Finance, says: “With multiple tax cuts and incentives, the Chancellor might be holding back some further help, particularly for the property market, until his next Budget.

“This would provide a further boost to the economy and potentially offer a last chance to increase support before the general election.

“Overall, this was a positive statement which will hopefully help the many.”

Marc Vlessing, CEO at Pocket Living, says: “With nearly 25% of young Londoners openly admitting in our recent research that they will be forced out of the capital due to high housing costs the lack of affirmative action to support SME developers and get builders building in today’s Autumn Statement is palpable.

“According to the latest data, construction starts in London are at the lowest point since 2009. Consequently, the industry is in dire need of support,” he says.

Considering the Chancellor’s focus on supply-side measures, this was an ideal chance to provide this backing as well as be radical and listen to those 66% of Londoners aged 25-45 who would have welcomed development on the green belt if it meant more homes.”

Keith Cooney, national head of business rates at Knight Frank, says: “In the face of a weak and uncertain economy the Chancellor has decided to impose a 6.4% increase in the business rates tax burden on the key businesses that are driving our fragile economy.

“This increase was based on the inflation rate for September which has already started to fall, and it is surprising that the full amount was impose,” he says.

“This is in stark contrast to small businesses with a rateable value below £51,000 where there will be no increase in rates.”

Link to Stamp Duty feature

Nick Leeming, chairman of Jackson-Stops, says: “The Chancellor’s muted actions today while not a hindrance to the housing market are definitely not the helping hand that many hoped for.

“Expectations of possible announcements on support for first-time buyers, cuts to stamp duty for downsizers and Inheritance Tax reliefs were all notably absen,” he says.

“This provides an important platform for the new housing minister, the second in less than a year, to make a difference to the property sector and not miss future opportunities to back the market and offer a vote of confidence to buyers and sellers.”

Ben Beadle, CEO at NRLA, says: “Freezing housing benefit rates was always a disastrous policy, hitting as it did many of the most vulnerable tenants across the private rented sector.

“Taking steps to reverse this change will provide vital support for tenants who are in receipt of the LHA, making it easier for them to access and sustain rental tenancies. More generally, this will go a long way towards tackling homelessness across the UK,” he says.

“All parties now need to commit to ensuring housing benefits are uprated each year so that they continue to be linked to market rents.”

John Phillips, CEO of Spicerhaart and Just Mortgages, says: “Despite the industry’s long wish list of announcements, it’s safe to say many will feel disappointed by the lack of support for the housing market.

After all, this is a key driver in the success of the wider economy. While a two per cent tax cut to the employee national insurance rate may keep more money in people’s pockets and improve income ratios for new mortgages, it doesn’t quite go far enough to address the clear affordability challenges facing homeowners.

“With an election on the horizon and homeownership still a clear aspiration for many, it would have been great to see more support in this area, particularly through a government-backed low deposit scheme or for the likes of shared ownership.”

One Comment

  1. 2024 will see an increasing global recession, which for the debt ridden UK will see the economy flatline. Hunt could have protected frontline services but decided to look after ‘big’ business. All of this is a sideshow, as the real fiscal play will be Andrew Bailey and the Bank of England – be warned the days of high interest rates are far from over.

    There was no new SDLT relief, no re-introduction of Help-to-buy, in fact no levers to help the faltering property market, the one glimmer of hope is that a General Election in 2024 gives whichever party a mandate to lead the country, as at present we reactively lurch from crisis to crisis.

  2. No where near good enough Jeremy so disappointed with the Conservatives have been useless on every front.

    NI reduction and minimum pay increase again…this will not boost the economy and certainly will not help SME’s

    What will and is desperately needed is a big cut in VAT and an increase in the threshold. SME’s are the lifeblood and yet again nothing that will help them stay in business and employ people.

    VAT is a killer for them as well as everybody in the country who has to pay it. This would put more money in everyone’s pocket and boost the economy.

    Inheritance Tax Cut will probably happen in April as they obviously decided to not do what was being predicted!?

    Stamp Duty could have been an immediate help and boost to the property market and can be done short term as well!

    When will we have some competence in our Government? No time soon it would seem!

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