Today the Lancaster Guardian launches a new campaign to demand a complete overhaul of the business ratings system in the UK, an outdated formula which is crippling our High Streets.
Along with our sister newspaper titles and the British Independent Retailers Association (bira), we are demanding that business rates are frozen immediately and an urgent review of the system is conducted.
The unfair tax has been increased by nearly £700m in the past three years, leaving traders with the highest property tax bills in Europe.
Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce is supporting our stance. Susan Sykes, a director at the chamber, said: “We fully support any campaign which seeks to help our local businesses survive, grow and prosper. A review of the outdated method used to calculate business rates charged is long overdue and it’s good to see that it’s being demanded by the wider national business community, too.
“I would add, though, that government needs also to seek to lower business taxes, if they wish to further Britain’s economic recovery and seek to ensure businesses receive better value from the many taxes they pay.
“Both these aims could very purposefully be included in this debate over business rates review.”
Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, also agreed that the formula was out of date.
He said: “Asking for a huge great review could take years, which is always the problem with these things. Having said that there should be more flexibility for local authorities to give businesses rate free periods particularly on high streets.
“Local authorities need to be given the ability to set business rates. There’s still got to be some sort of central apportionment, and a need for national formula.
“The formula we have now however, is clearly out of date, and we can deal with that pretty quickly.”
All non-domestic properties have a rateable value, which broadly represents the annual rent that the property could have been let for on the open market. They are re-valued every five years, with the next due in 2015, but the government has postponed the next revaluation until 2017.
n See p59 for petition