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Osborne announces £1,500 business rate boost for local newspapers

George OSborneChancellor George Osborne has today announced a two-year business rate cut for the local press in a bid to bring newspapers back to town centres.

In last year’s Budget, Mr Osborne promised a consultation on business rate relief for the local press industry to help it adapt to the digital age.

Now he has gone further and announced a discount of £1,500 per office for two years from 1 April 2017.

The rate relief cut was not specifically mentioned in the Chancellor’s budget speech, but was contained in the small print of the Treasury documents published alongside this afternoon’s Commons statement.

Under a paragraph headed ‘Business rates: local newspapers’ it states:  “The government will introduce a £1,500 business rates discount for office space occupied by local newspapers in England, up to a maximum of one discount per local newspaper title and per hereditament, and up to state aid limits, for 2 years from 1 April 2017.”

The move follows the consultation carried out last summer which held out the prospect of a “temporary boost” for local newspapers as they adapted to structural change in the industry.

It said:  “The purpose of any relief would be to help local newspaper publishers as they adapt to changes and put themselves on a long-term sustainable financial footing.

“It is likely therefore that any relief would be on a temporary basis.”

“The government understands that many local newspapers have vacated high street offices to reduce costs.

“A business rates relief may therefore provide a temporary boost to allow local newspapers to reduce their costs while they establish themselves in sustainable premises.”

The then culture secretary Sajid Javid said at the time:  “There is no doubt that if funding was not an issue, the choice location for local newspaper offices – for residents and journalists – alike – would be in town centres, in a building that comfortably meets their resourcing needs.

“A relief on business rates for local newspapers should provide us with options for targeting these organisations so as to reduce their costs and support them to provide their vital function in our democracy.”

The Chancellor’s move has been warmly welcomed by industry leaders who lobbied for the change ahead of last year’s Budget statement.

News Media Association deputy chief executive Lynne Anderson said: “The NMA is pleased to see in the Budget this afternoon that the Government has progressed its initiative of business rates relief for local newspapers.

“Publishers have never sought direct public subsidy but local newspapers are vital to democracy and it is good to see the Government supporting a dynamic and vibrant local press. We look forward to seeing the full details of how the initiative will operate.”

Scottish government sources had also previously suggested that the move is likely to be extended to Scotland.

* How did the UK regional press cover this year’s Budget?  Here’s a selection of today’s front pages.

The Northern Echo focused on Mr Osborne’s new sugar tax in its front page.

The Northern Echo focused on Mr Obsorne's new sugar tax on its front page

North-East rival The Journal went for the proposed infrastructure improvements in Northumberland as its top angle.

JournalbudgetA campaigning front from the Yorkshire Evening Post, following up on its fight for more cash for flood prevention measures.


The South Wales Argus leads with the proposed cut in Severn Bridge tolls.


The proposed sugar tax also provides the main angle for an eye-catching Daily Record front, although we’re not sure about the name on the Chancellor’s can of Irn-Bru….

Daily Record IRn


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  • March 16, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Will this prompt reinvestment (!) or just be an extra bonus soaked up in the salaries of those higher up?

    I look forward to reading about how newspaper offices are reopening in town centres etc etc.

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  • March 16, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    ‘Ha ha ha, we’re getting special rate relief on our high street office which is never open, so we can afford to pay our chief exec £1.7m a year while the company goes down the wotsit and we can’t afford to send a reporter to council meetings or the courts.

    Now pay your bill for the ad we had made up wrong in Mumbai and sold to you by a call centre at the other end of the country.

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  • March 16, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Not sure who is more out of touch with the real world. Osborne or the fools running newspapers. Horse? Stable door?

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  • March 17, 2016 at 8:29 am

    The old ‘tiniest violin in the world ‘ trick has worked then.
    I look forward to seeing local weeklies reopening their offices in towns right across the uk now
    Let the investment begin!

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  • March 17, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Osborne is only doing this to shore up positive local headlines.

    Two years of making a small saving isn’t going to protect individual papers, and it won’t convince papers to re-open a closed office. What happens after two years? Do they just shut up shop and return to the industrial estate they’re based on again.

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