The chair of the All Party Parliamentary Retail Group has dubbed business rates the “retail equivalent of the poll tax”.
In a Westminster Hall debate today, the group’s co-chair Ann Coffey MP said that the impact of the cost of business rates will accelerate the demise of the high street.
MPs challenged Local Government minister Brandon Lewis on Government proposals to delay next year’s business rates revaluation.
Lewis admitted the decision to postpone the revaluation would mean 300,000 businesses would have to pay more in rates than they should do for at least two years.
Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, who organised the debate, said he believed the 300,000 figure, estimated by the Valuation Office Agency, was “probably a very conservative estimate” and that the real figure was much higher.
Retailers and property owners have criticised Government’s decision to postpone the revaluation of business rates from 2015 to 2017.
The planned 2015 revaluation would have meant business rates being calculated at 2013 rateable values. Under the Government’s plans, the 2017 change will be calculated at 2015 rateable values, which are likely to be higher than 2013.
Danczuk said: “If next year’s business rates revaluation was to go ahead as planned, new rates would come into force in April 2015, a month away from the General Election. They would undoubtedly show increases in business rates in the South East and a significant decrease, to reflect the readjustment in property values, across the North and elsewhere.
“This is not the kind of news the Government want to present to heartland supporters a month away from elections.”
Brandon Lewis has argued that the revaluation will avoid local shops facing “unexpected hikes” in their business rates bills over the next five years.
Lewis said in a column for Retail Week: “This will give retailers and local shops much needed financial stability, enabling long term planning, and avoid unexpected hikes in business-rates bills over the next five years. As business rates will remain linked to inflation, there will be no real-terms increase for retailers over this period.”