Information

Coronavirus (COVID-19) business support: equality impact assessments

Detailed equality impact assessments (EQIAs) for the COVID-19 business support funding issued between March 2020 and April 2021.


Non-Domestic Rates (NDR) Relief for Retail, Hospitality Leisure and Aviation Business

Name of Grant:

100% Non-Domestic Rates (NDR) Relief for Retail, Hospitality, Leisure and Aviation (RHLA) Businesses

Universal 1.6% NDR Relief

Policy Lead

Anouk Berthier

Legal power used:

Section 153 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994

Grant Overview:

The COVID-19 NDR reliefs were designed and delivered to counter the adverse economic impact of COVID-19 on 1 April 2020.

RHLA Relief

100% non-domestic rates relief was available for properties in the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors as set out in Schedules 1 and 2 of The Non-Domestic Rates (Coronavirus Reliefs) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, as amended; and The Non-Domestic Rates (Coronavirus Reliefs) (Scotland) Regulations 2021. The relief was available for the 2020-21 financial year, and extended for all of the 2021-22 financial year.

This relief was automatically awarded by local authorities in financial year 2020-21, however, in recognition of donations in lieu of an NDR relief refund made by a number of large relief beneficiaries, an application was required to be submitted for the relief in 2021-22 in order to ensure that only those who were eligible and actually wanted to claim the relief, would receive it.

In 2020-21 this relief was not available for properties that were unoccupied on 17 March 2020 in order to target relief to properties that were in difficulty in 2020-21 as a result of COVID-19 directly. This restriction is not a feature of the eligibility of the relief in 2021-22.

Universal 1.6% Relief

A 1.6% relief was available for all non-domestic properties in Scotland in financial year 2020-21 only. This effectively reversed the planned annual increase in the poundage. This relief was set out in The Non-Domestic Rates (Coronavirus Reliefs) (Scotland) Regulations 2020.

This relief was automatically awarded to all properties and there was no requirement to apply.

Executive Summary:

The Scottish Government understands the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses, which is why £4.4 billion has been committed to business support since March 2020. This emergency funding has supported otherwise strong and viable businesses, protecting the business base, jobs and livelihoods helping prepare for a stronger economic recovery.

In order to address the needs of many sectors adversely impacted by the pandemic, a range of business support funds and measures were introduced over several months to provide emergency funding to help secure jobs, safeguard businesses and to alleviate hardship.

Within this context of needing to respond quickly, there was limited opportunity to gather evidence on the possible impacts of these measures.

The COVID-19 reliefs formed part of the initial tranche of COVID-19 business support and were designed and delivered in order to ensure businesses were supported quickly following the closure of many business premises in March 2020 as part of the public health response to COVID-19.

Key Findings - impact assessment of benefits and/or disadvantages.

Non-domestic rates are a tax levied on the occupier (this can be a company, an individual, etc.) of non-domestic lands and heritages, or the owner of the property if the latter is vacant. Non-domestic rates are levied on the private, public and third sectors, with a range of reliefs available both during and outwith the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each rated non-domestic property is listed on the valuation roll, with the description assigned by the assessor (e.g. shop), and the rateable value and address of the property, as well as the address of the proprietor, tenant or occupier and certain other rating-specific variables (e.g. any residential apportionment). The valuation roll does not contain any characteristics of property owners or occupiers as this is not relevant for rating; and while most reliefs require applications, councils do not either collect or generally hold information on the characteristics of property owners or occupiers – protected or otherwise. It is therefore not possible to appraise the impact of an NDR relief with certainty on protected characteristics.

Notwithstanding that lack of data, given that this is a universal tax on non-domestic premises (in the sense all rateable non-domestic premises are liable for NDR), it can be assumed that there is generally a low risk of a policy in this area having a disparate and adverse effect, direct or indirect, on protected characteristics. Further, given the broad coverage of the 1.6% universal relief and the 100% Retail, Hospitality, Leisure and Aviation relief, it is also sensible to assume that there is a low risk of this policy having a disparate and adverse effect, direct or indirect, on protected characteristics.

Age: Older People and Children and Young People

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

Sex: Men and Women

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

Race

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

Disability

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

Disabled Rates relief is available under the Rating (Disabled Persons) Act 1978 where:

  • the property is used as residential accommodation provided for the care or aftercare of people who are disabled,
  • facilities are provided for the training of people who are disabled;
  • welfare services or workshops for disabled persons are provided.

Religion and Belief

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

Buildings occupied by a religious body for the purpose of religious worship or related administration, and halls used in connection with such buildings and their occupiers’ purpose, have been exempt from rates under the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956.

Sexual Orientation

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

Pregnancy and maternity

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

Gender reassignment

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

Marriage or Civil Partnership

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

Socio-economic disadvantage: any people experiencing poverty

As stated above, it is not possible to distinguish any potential differential impact on different sectors of society based on protected characteristics, however given the universal nature of non-domestic rates, and the broad coverage of RHLA relief, there was no reason to expect a particular impact specifically on this characteristic.

It is worth noting that under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966, up to 100% discretionary hardship relief is available if the relief applicant would otherwise sustain hardship, and if doing so was reasonable in light of the interests of council taxpayers.

Stakeholder Engagement:

We have engaged extensively with businesses and their representative organisations during the pandemic. In the year to March 2021 the Scottish Government had more than 1,270 ministerial engagements with business, including virtual conferences, roundtables and calls.

Engagement with local and business leaders included regular communication with:

COSLA/ local authorities; as well as CBI, FSB, SCC, Scottish Retail Consortium, etc. This provided an opportunity to listen to stakeholder views, test ideas, share information about progress and discuss and address specific issues identified by sectors and individual businesses.

Mitigations:

The reliefs were kept under review and in response to the feedback from business, in July 2020, the relief regulations were amended to retrospectively extend eligibility for the 100% RHLA relief to premises which were wholly or mainly used as a soft play centre, amusement arcade or amusement centre. Premises are not included in the definition of an eligible amusement arcade or centre if they allow access to Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (B2 gaming machine, set out in regulation 5(5) of the Categories of Gaming Machine Regulations 2007).

Next Steps (if any)

N/A

Declaration and Publication

I have read the Equality Impact Assessment and I am satisfied that it represents a fair and reasonable view of the expected equality impact of the measures implemented.

Signed: Ellen Leaver

Date: 19/10/2021

Contact

Email: Pauline.Jones@gov.scot

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