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The Great Rate Debate goes on– bira amongst businesses fighting for complete reform

The headlines have been filled with news this week about the mounting pressure being put on the Government to reform the damaging business rates system.

The British Retail Consortium, of which bira is a member, is among the signatories of a letter submitted to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, challenging the intended new appeals process against business rates, claiming that the review could be illegal under local government finance law.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium said: “Given the growing burden of business rates, it is essential that each ratepayer pays its fair share. However, the plans for the new appeals process would mean that a business rates valuation determined to be inaccurate by the independent Valuation Tribunal for England, would only be corrected if it is deemed ‘outside the bounds of reasonable professional judgement’. This would be unfair to ratepayers and create additional uncertainty for local government. Instead, a collaborative working relationship between the Valuation Office Agency and ratepayers, where information and evidence can be shared and appeals avoided, should be sought.”

Alan Hawkins, CEO of bira, said: “The answer to the rate problem is quite simple. If it were an allowance of £12,000 then the smallest would pay nothing, those on £24,000 would only pay on the last £12,000 and so on. The average shop on £24,000 would be happy as their rates would halve, the biggest say on £300,000 would not get much reduction as the £12,000 would be a small percentage of the whole. Quick help to the independents on the high street.
“You would have to have a VAT SIC code (Standard Industry Classification) to qualify for this relief, so all the others who have been affected, like hospitals and schools, could stay as they are.”

Some members of bira have seen increases upwards of 30%, including bira president Vin Vara, owner of nine branches of The Tool Shop in Central London. This isn’t just a London issue though, with members across the country being affected negatively, which might ultimately be the difference between keeping a business open or closing.

Alan added: “Whilst bira wishes those members with a substantially reduced rates bill well, it will do nothing to reduce the fears and pressures on those at the other end of the scale. The Government missed a trick in only helping businesses with a rateable value below £12,000 in its last budget. This has been too low to be of use to the majority of bira members. In their current form, rates are unsustainable and will continue to pressurise survival on the high street.”

bira’s Rates Paper of 2015 tried to influence the Government when they were working on the new system but they weren’t in the mood to listen then.

See the bira rates report 2015 – bira’s 10-point reform proposal for reforming business rates.