Art and antiques dealers have called for reform of business rates following a reprieve announced in last week’s Budget.

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced a cut for many small businesses so that for the next two years all retailers with a premises valued at £51,000 or less will have their bills reduced by a third, leading to “up to an £8000 saving for around 90% of independent retailers”.

‘Sets the clock back’

London book and map dealer Tim Bryars at Bryars & Bryars said: “I will save a bit of money, here on Cecil Court, but it won’t help my neighbours with bookshops on Charing Cross Road, and almost anyone with substantial premises in Mayfair is out of luck.

“However, business rates have risen so much in the last decade that this simply sets the clock back a few years. Plus relief won’t start immediately, and it will only cover a twoyear period. Rather than temporary relief, we need a proper overhaul of an archaic and regressive system.”

"I will save a bit of money at Cecil Court but it won’t help my neighbours"

Rountree Tryon director Jamie Rountree closed its large central London gallery earlier this year to concentrate on its Petworth premises.

He told ATG: “My immediate response is ‘too little, too late’. Business rates and the greediness of landlords have already put paid to the original St James’s art dealer model where passing trade pays for the gallery expenses.

“It would be a better strategy to give local councils the ability to cut business rates for certain specialist trades in order to keep niche areas in business.”

Hammond also announced a Future High Streets Fund: £675m for councils to support local high streets.

Marco Forgione, BADA chief executive, welcomed the announcement. He said: “We urge local authorities to look to support art and antiques dealers who act as a real draw and a hub for local high streets.”

The Society of London Art Dealers (SLAD) director general Christopher Battiscombe said: “I think overall the chancellor has played a difficult hand as well as he could. But everything is overlaid by doubts about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and, as he himself has admitted, inevitably this is something of a holding operation until we know where we are on that.”