Saturday, 17 March 2018

How to revive the health of high streets > make business rates fairer

Life in towns should revolve around more than shopping:
Futures Forum: How to revive the health of high streets > focus on bringing back jobs and leisure activity to town centres

And in fact there are on-line and service businesses doing well in Sidmouth:
Futures Forum: How to revive the health of high streets > businesses thriving on Temple Street

But the current regime around business rates is not working - and not working for the businesses themselves or for the councils which collect the rates:
Futures Forum: Business rate rises - and the implications for councils
Futures Forum: Revolt against business rates: UK entrepreneurs pay more than France and Germany combined
Futures Forum: County Council calls for "an urgent national review of local government funding" as "thousands of small businesses are set to be hammered by a rise in business rates"

Sidmouth and East Devon rely heavily on the small business:
Futures Forum: "Statistics show us that small and medium-size businesses (including those in tourism) are our life blood."

This time last year small businesses in Sidmouth were pointing to the unfairness of the rates regime:

Some small Sidmouth businesses will be hit hard by changes say owners

PUBLISHED: 17 March 2017 | Clarissa Place

Small business owners in Sidmouth are appealing for help after 
being hit by new business rates – caused because they are in larger premises.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the budget last week that small businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or less would pay nothing in business rates from April.

The changes affect Sharon Hobson of Flutterbys and Sidmouth Wine’s Natalie Bowditch, whose businesses will not qualify for small business rate relief because their rateable value is just over the threshold.

Some small Sidmouth businesses will be hit hard by changes say owners | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

With lots of comment in the national press at the time:
The high street is already under threat and now this... | Lucy Siegle | Opinion | The Guardian
The destruction of Britain’s high streets is no accident | Simon Jenkins | Opinion | The Guardian
Philip Hammond 'listening' to business rates concerns - BBC News
'Make business rates fairer', retailers demand as Budget day approaches - Better Retailing
Industry calls for fairer business rates - Talking Retail

And it still hasn't been resolved one year on:

Concerns raised over Sidmouth’s independent shops’ future, if rates are not made fairer

PUBLISHED: 17:24 16 March 2018 | Beth Sharp

Natalie Bowditch of Sidmouth Wines, Sharon Hobson of Flutterbys and John Wycherley of Sidmouth Gifts with their rates bills. Ref shs 11 18TI 4892. Picture: Terry Ife

Outraged independent retailers do not know how they will survive if action is not taken to make business rates fairer in the town.

A new government scheme was introduced last year to bring relief to small businesses. This meant shops with bigger premises paid rates while smaller stores paid nothing, despite whether their earnings were higher or not.

The decision on whether a business pays rates is based on its rateable value which is worked out on the shop’s size, location and other factors, determining how much the owner should pay.

Shops with a rateable value of £12,000 or less are exempt from paying rates. And, properties with a rateable value of £12,001 to £15,000, the rate of relief will go down gradually from 100 per cent to zero per cent.

Sharon Hobson, of Flutterbys in Fore Street, said they paid £850 a month in business rates while other shops paid nothing.

She added: “Just because our property is bigger doesn’t mean it makes more money. I have a small independent business – if you have a shop, which is part of a big company, and you have less takings you have other branches that can help balance things out. We don’t have that.

“It is going to really affect us. I don’t know how long all the independent shops like mine will last if they don’t start distributing the cost. Imagine how people would feel if they changed the council tax system and did this for residential properties, letting some people pay nothing and those with bigger homes bear the brunt of the increase – there would be uproar.”

Sharon said it should be based on people’s turn over and takings to make it fairer.

John Wycherley, of Sidmouth Gifts in Old Fore Street, said he had to find £7,500 a year to pay his rates.

He added: “It is a lot of money to find, I really think something needs to be done about it. We have to compete against shops which don’t pay rates because they have small stores or because they are charities. Some shops who don’t have to pay rates take a lot more money than we do. Everybody should pay rates or it should be made the same for everyone. I feel it is uneven and very unfair.”

Matthew Collings, who owns Sidmouth Wines with his partner Natalie Bowditch, said if it was based on the turn over of profits it would be fine and much fairer.

He added: “A portion of whatever you make could then go back into supporting the economy. If you make no money you still have to pay this huge amount and struggle on.

“Sidmouth will end up being full of charity shops and estate agents, there is nothing wrong with charity shops and estate agents but we think the reason people live, visit and love Sidmouth so much is because we have such a range of great independent shops. There is no way we will be able to stay in business if the rates keep going up.”

Tell us what you think by emailing beth.sharp2@archant.co.uk or submit a letter to sidmouth.letters@archant.co.uk.

Concerns raised over Sidmouth’s independent shops’ future, if rates are not made fairer | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

And elsewhere, the demands for a 'fairer system' are being made:
Restaurant co-owner warns of 'cataclysmic' effect of soaring business rates | Suffolk and Essex Business News - East Anglian Daily Times
Chancellor's business rate gesture a 'plaster on a gunshot wound' | The Bookseller

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