Small business lobby group FSB demands rates ‘radical rethink’ for Leamington retailers
Recent reports have highlighted that retail sales are expected to remain below seasonal norms and that 2020 looks set to be another tough year for our high streets, writes Lee Osborne, development manager for Warwickshire and Coventry Federation of Small Businesses.
What’s more recent figures from the BBC Data Unit show that £1 billion in empty premises business rates relief is applied in England and Wales each year.
Indeed, in Warwick District this figure in stands at £11.9 million over the past five years.
This level of relief on empty premises is just the latest evidence of the negative impact of business rate increases on the most vulnerable businesses in our towns and cities.
As one of the main costs of doing business, after staff and rent, business rates take no account of affordability.
Whether a business is large or small, profitable or not, business rates focus purely on the rateable value of the premises from which they operate.
It is an unfit for purpose system that the Federation of Businesses has long believed is in need of a radical rethink.
Fundamentally, without the current business rates system we’d have far fewer empty shops on our high streets – and less of a need for empty premises relief.
That’s why the FSB is calling for the scaling back of a tax that has damaged firms all over the county.
We want to see business rates recalibrated.
This will encourage a mixture of thriving small businesses on diverse high streets, which are at
the heart of local communities.
While the new administration has promised a wholesale review of business rates, it needs to be looked at urgently.
FSB believe the outdated system must be simplified and taking more of the small firms that need support most out of it must be the priority.
Policymakers need to remember that it’s these businesses that inject competition and diversity into our business landscape.
It has been encouraging to see Government double down on its commitment to increase the Retail Discount on rates to 50 per cent and make it available to more types of business.
Targeted relief like this should be the focus, rather than driving small firms out of communities they want to serve.