Business rate hits struggling UK High Streets hardest leading to more closures

Finding a new retailer for a prime spot in Blackpool town centre used to be easy.

In the 1980s and 1990s, firms would have been fighting over the keys to 18-22 Victoria Street, a large, modern two-storey unit directly opposite the shopping centre. Not any more.

Until last month, the property had been rented to Topshop and Topman. But their owner, Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group, walked away when the lease came up for renewal. His shops have been struggling to keep up with the competition, and dozens, up and down the country, are being closed.

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“We are having difficulty attracting any interest, never mind a national retailer,” says Paul Moran, a ratings surveyor whose company, Mason Owen, is tasked with finding a new tenant.

Business rates, he says, were a factor in Arcadia’s decision to pull out, and they’re now a big barrier to someone else moving in.

“The first thing tenants look at are their outgoings. And when they see the rates bill, they will be put off by that. Normally you’d expect to be paying 50% of your rent in rates, but the rates bill in this shop is dramatically higher than that.”

With retail in turmoil, pressure is growing for change. So what are business rates and why are they a problem?

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Business rates are a kind of council tax for commercial property. All sorts of premises have to pay them, from offices, warehouses and pubs, to power plants, train stations and shops.

Bills are worked out based on the government’s estimate of how much the property would cost to rent on the open market. Businesses have to pay the tax regardless of whether the space makes any profit or not.

As a rule of thumb, your business rates bill is now typically half of your rent. That’s a big financial burden in itself for retailers with lots of shops. But many of our national chains aren’t even being charged the right amount to begin with. They’re paying millions of pounds more in rates than their rents would imply.

Properties get revalued every few years by the government to make sure the occupiers are paying the correct sums. Some bills go up and some go down. The last revaluation was in 2017.

For towns like Blackpool, this should have been good news because retail rents had collapsed. Their business rates bills should have dived as a result, bringing some relief to a town grappling with too many empty shops and years of government austerity.

But here’s the problem. Changes in bills, both up and down, are phased in gradually over several years to help businesses adjust. It’s like a shock absorber, and it’s called “transitional relief”.

The system is good news if your bills are going up, but not so good if you’re in a property due a big reduction. It’s a bit like being told you’re due a tax cut, but your bill will only be cut incrementally over five years, and you may never get the full reduction.

It works like this because the government wants to make sure it receives the same amount in business rates in real terms, or adjusting for inflation, each year. So rate rises and decreases must balance. This is an England-only policy.

And it’s the largest stores occupied by big chains that are the most affected. Blackpool’s 18-22 Victoria Street is a good example.

Source: BBC News

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How to read your smart meter and get the best from it

The major benefits of smart meters is that you no longer have to take manual readings, as your meter data is recorded automatically. Your smart meter is in constant communication with your energy supplier, ensuring that your energy bills are accurate and based on the most up-to-date figures – no more meter readings and no more estimates! However, if you would like to keep taking smart meter readings to keep an eye on your energy use, here’s how to manually read a smart meter.

Reasons to take a manual smart meter reading

  • You’ve switched energy providers and your smart meter isn’t compatible with your new supplier’s systems.
  • Stay in control of your energy use by setting budgets and comparing your energy use across the day/week/month.

How to manually read a smart meterSee the source image

If you prefer to take electricity and gas readings for yourself, here’s how you can check how much energy you’re using by reading your smart meter. You can read your smart meter by taking a look at your in-house smart meter display unit. This display will show you your daily, weekly or monthly energy use in terms of money, kilowatt hours and carbon emissions.

How to read a smart meter

Remember that when you got your new smart meter installed, the readings began from 0, so you will have a new set of readings – they won’t carry over from your old meter. Not all smart meters look exactly the same, but we’ve put together this guide that applies to most smart meters.

Your smart meter will generally display:

  • A budget market
  • Battery status
  • Time
  • Text area
  • Touch buttons
  • Light indicators
  • Costs and consumption
  • Fuel view
  • Energy display dial
  • Wireless signal strength
    how to read a smart meter

How to read a smart electric meter

Your electricity consumption is measured in kilo-watt hours (kWh), so this is the number you’ll need to look for. You won’t need to record the numbers after the decimal place. Here’s how to read different types of smart electricity meters

How to read smart electricity meter with a keypad

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  • Press ‘9’ on the keypad
  • A series of letter will appear
  • You’ll then see eight digits on the screen followed by the letters ‘kWh’.
  • These digits are your meter reading; in this case,

How to read an Economy 7 smart meter

This type of meter takes records day and night usage.
How to read an Economy 7 smart meter

  • Press ‘6’ on the keypad until the letters ‘IMP R01’ followed by eight digits appear (usually your night/off-peak reading).
  • Keep pressing ‘6’ until you see ‘IMP R02’ followed by eight digits (usually your peak/normal reading).
  • Use the digits ahead of the decimal points as you readings.

    How to take a smart meter reading if you have two buttons

    How to take a smart meter reading if you have two buttons

  • Press the ‘Display Select’ or ‘Display’ button.
  • The meter display will then scroll through to the meter reading.
  • Look for the number followed by kWh – this is your meter reading.

How to take an electric smart meter reading if you have A and B buttons

  • Press the A button
  • Keep pressing until you reach ‘TOTAL ACT IMPORT’.
  • The number shown below this is your meter reading.

OR

  • Press and hold the A button for at least two seconds.
  • Keep pressing A  to cycle through the displays.
  • The numbers you see followed by kWh is your meter reading

How to take a smart meter reading if your meter has 3 buttons

  • Press the button in the middle.
  • Your meter reading is the number shown below IMP.
  • If you have a two-rate meter, R1= Rate 1; R2 = Rate 2; T = total.
  • You can see all readings by pressing the middle button again.

If you have a button on the left and two buttons on the right:

If you have an orange button on the left and blue buttons on the right:

  • Press the single button.
  • You’ll see a row of digits with kWh – this is your meter reading.

How to read a smart gas meter

Both gas and electricity smart meters have a numerical keypad. Here’s what to do if you want to take a traditional meter reading:

How to read a gas smart meter if you have a keypad

How to read a gas smart meter if you have a keypad

  • Press 9 on the keypad.
  • You’ll see VOLUME on the screen
  • You’ll then see a row of digits followed by M3 at the bottom right – this is your gas meter reading.

 

How to read a gas smart meter if you have A and B buttons

How to read a gas smart meter if you have A and B buttons

  • Press the A button.
  • Keep pressing until you get to METER INDEX.
  • The digits shown below this is your meter reading.

    How to read a gas smart meter if you have a left arrow, a circle and a right arrow

    How to read a gas smart meter if you have a left arrow, a circle and a right arrow

  • Press the circle button in the middle.
  • Your screen will show ‘current meter reading’ at the top.
  • The row of digits followed by M3 is your meter reading.

How to read your smart gas meter if you have 3 square buttons

How to read your smart gas meter if you have 3 square red buttons

How to read your smart gas meter if you have 3 square red buttons

Your buttons may or may be labelled or unlabelled.

  • Press the button on the left.
  • You’ll see a row of digits followed by M3 – this is your smart meter reading.

How to read your smart gas meter if you have arrows to the right of the screen

How to read a gas smart meter

  • Press the arrow at the top.
  • You’ll see a row of digits followed by M3 – this is your meter reading.

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We hope that this guide is useful in helping you to take a manual meter reading from your smart meter and help you with home energy management to reduce your energy usage to save on energy bills and the environment, Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need any help!

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Home energy saver: Consider your curtains

Heavy curtains with good lining will help to retain the heat in a room and thereby save you energy and money on heating bills.

Remember to draw your curtains at dusk to reduce the heat escaping through your windows and ensure they are not blocking any radiators.

Thinking of buying a property?

Need help with property investment in the UK from start to finish, Please Contact me

Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk