Mary Portas joins row over business rates

Retail guru Mary Portas has joined the chorus of criticism of the Government’s business rates’ revaluation, taking to Twitter to vent her frustration.

“This is short term business thinking, sadly, from the govt,” Portas said on Twitter. She was responding to a tweet from Jeanette Winterson – author of “Oranges are Not the Only Fruit” and owner of an upmarket cafe in Spitalfields, London – who complained that “My shop … set to close under the new business rate.”

This was picked up by the national media which have reported that her deli Verdi & Company would have to shut because the rateable value had gone from £21,500 to £54,000. “I had three choices, close it, sell it, or hand it over to the big boys,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in Marylebone or Spitalfields or round the back of Belgravia, your little newsagents, your dry cleaners, your corner shops and independent bookshops in particular will be hard hit because their turnover isn’t high.”

Retailers face the biggest shake-up in the business rates system for almost a decade after the revaluation due in 2015 was postponed. However, the latest revaluation that sees business rates linked to rentable values will hit London and South East businesses hardest, as these regions have seen property values and thus rental returns increase. In sharp contrast many northern regions will see huge drops after April 1, having had to deal with artificially high business rates linked to property values back in 2008 and pre the financial crisis.

The Department of Communities and Local Government has said no small business will see an increase of more than 5 percent this year, while £3.6 billion is being spent on rate relief measures. They continue to cite the fact that almost three quarters of  England will see no change, or a drop – including 600,000 which will come out of the Rating list altogether.