Central London MP Mark Field has launched a scathing attack on the impending business rates increases.
In a speech in Parliament to raise the profile of the issue, he called the planned rises “deeply disturbing”. Field, whose constituency includes the West End, said Westminster City Council wants rate changes deferred “until the economy improves”.
He added: “I would challenge the sense of a scheme which takes two years from valuation to billing.”
Field, who cited Retail Week’s Rate Rage campaign in his speech, highlighted the blow that rate rises will have on London businesses in particular, saying the burden will be put “firmly on the shoulders of Westminster’s businesses” because it is the region where rental values have increased the most between 2003 and 2008. “Spread across the nation, the revaluation exercise is designed to be fiscally neutral, creating a system of winners and losers,” he said.
“Central London’s businesses are not a cash cow. Companies in my constituency are now being plundered.” The rates rise is a “perverse penalty for the district’s success”.
He added: “With London the ongoing engine of the nation’s economy, this is not simply a parochial issue – it is a national one.”
Retailers have previously highlighted the danger of a rates increase. The BRC calculated the rises could kill nearly 600 retail businesses, leading to 19,300 redundancies by 2012.
The revaluation, in April 2010, will be based on the difference in values between April 2003 and 2008, when rental values rocketed. Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy has attacked the system, saying “business rates must be reversed as they don’t reflect the changing nature of property today”.
In March Chancellor Alistair Darling announced plans for a gradual transition for the increases, but this failed to appease retailers.