Business rates protests continue to make national headlines

Business leaders from a growing number of sectors have come out to condemn the business rates revaluation which kicks in on April 1.

Momentum has been building with business chiefs, as far apart as London and Scotland, speaking out against the huge rises predicted for some regions and cities when the new business rate regime begins.

Retailers claim thousands of shops, café and independent stores will be forced out of business by the rises, in many cases paying more in business rates than they do in rent and other overheads.

But not every part of the country is affected adversely. Huge swathes of England, notably, in the North, will see business rates fall due to the formula that sets Rateable Values (RV) been based on commercial property rents.

As property rents have risen in the south east and London in particular, other parts of the country have seen values plummet due to the post-2009 recession. The North East, parts of the North West and Yorkshire will be winners having paid artificially high business rates since the original revaluation was postponed in 2015. 

As the scale of some rate rises has become clearer as April 1 looms, business leaders have become more focused in their protests, with stories appearing almost on a daily basis warning of the dire consequences for their sector.

In the last few days alone, Lord Tebbit and “Queen of Shops” Mary Portas have both spoken out as part of the business rates’ backlash. They join groups from health, retail, leisure, brewing, farming and even the clean energy sector in voicing concerns over the hikes.

Breweries claim that four pubs a day are closing due to rising business rates whilst, north of the border, Scottish retailers claim they will be paying an extra £12m a year when the rates change in April. This figure pales into insignificance however when compared to the projected £1.4bn business rate rise forecasted for office space in London’s financial sector of the Square Mile.

The government is also under fire, at the moment, following proposed changes to the Appeals’ process whereby businesses can currently appeal against their individual business rates claiming inaccurate assessments or material changes in circumstances. Critics argue the reforms will make the process more difficult and expensive to appeal. Some business leaders are going further, claiming the changes are potentially illegal.