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‘Root-and-branch reform needed for business rates’

In his Budget back in March, Chancellor George Osborne set up what he called “the biggest review of business rates in a generation”.

The aim is to investigate how the system might be changed to help high street shops that struggle to compete with online retailers.

London First has submitted a joint response to the review with the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses in London, London Councils, Westminster Council, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

In summary, our key asks are:

  • Consider how a move towards linking business rate rises to CPI could be introduced in the context of maintaining fiscal neutrality,
  • Allow local authorities to better respond to local business need through greater flexibility within the system with increased local discretion around scheduling of payments and reliefs,
  • Incentivize local authorities to prioritize business growth by retaining additional business rate growth above forecast levels and enhanced income raising powers.

For the full response to the Government’s Review of Business Rates, please click here.

Our response follows a period of dialogue between the different organisations represented and with Government. A roundtable discussion in November was followed by a joint letter to the Chancellor before 2014’s Autumn Statement and subsequent meetings with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and HM Treasury officials to explore where this group of organisations could add value.

There is a depth of mutual understanding between business and local government of the administrative and financial burden that the current system of business rates imposes on all those involved.

Beyond this, there is a strong consensus on the need for fundamental, root-and-branch reform, rather than minor variations to the current system.

We share the view that reform must provide greater certainty and transparency to both businesses and local government; while being able to support, incentivise and facilitate local investment in drivers of growth, such as infrastructure and skills.

The list of signatories includes:

  • John Dickie, Director of Policy and Strategy, London First 
  • Mayor Jules Pipe, Chair, London Councils 
  • Councillor Philippa Roe, Leader, Westminster City Council 
  • Christian Spence, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce 
  • Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry 
  • Sue Terpilowski, FSB Policy Chairman for Greater London, FSB London Region 
  • Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, CIPFA

Contact: Catherine Shrimpton, cshrimpton@londonfirst.co.uk

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