Cable pledge on shops tax delay
Jan 27, 2013 (Financial Mail on Sunday - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
VINCE CABLE has ordered a fresh review of business rates after receiving evidence that shop owners did not expect to benefit from a planned delay in revaluation.
The Business Secretary's decision is the first sign that the Government is responding to high street concerns that rates continue to rise while rents in many areas outside Central London are in decline.
There has been a wave of retail collapses in recent weeks, including HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops.
The review follows a year of campaigning by Financial Mail for an overhaul of rates, which have contributed to an increase in the number of high street vacancies. By April, rates will have gone up by 13 per cent over three years.
Cable said the key issues were calls for a reorganisation of the whole system and, second, the "narrower issue" of the delay in revaluation announced last year.
He said traders in his Twickenham constituency in South-West London, had complained that the delay would mean high, pre-recession rate levels would stay, damaging their shops.
Cable acknowledged that rates were a matter for Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. But he said: "In good faith, the Government said, 'Let's delay the revaluation to help small businesses.' I've asked my people what we can do to allow us to look at fresh evidence. I want to keep an open-minded approach."
Michael Gibbs, owner of the Bolingbroke Bookshop in Clapham, South London, said his business rates had increased to more than pounds sterling 15,000 a year, but repeated complaints to the Valuation Office had fallen on deaf ears.
"I could have survived Amazon and Kindle but my business rates have risen by pounds sterling 10,000 in three years," said Gibbs, 63, who has run the shop for 31 years. "There comes a point when you cannot continue and, quite frankly, I am exhausted dealing with the Valuation Office."
Retailers have been arguing for a level playing field between the high street and the internet. The bookshop pays pounds sterling 919 a square metre a year in rates compared with pounds sterling 44 at Amazon's distribution centre near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.
Michael Weedon of the independent retailers' association BIRA said owners of family shops saw sales fall 2.5 per cent in the three months to the end of December.
"I'm heartened that Vince Cable is looking at this, but I wonder how many in the Cabinet feel the same way," he said.
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