The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) and property services firm Colliers International have called for new prime minister Boris Johnson to make tackling the business rates “crisis” a top priority.
John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers, and Paul Faulkner, CEO of GBCC, said Johnson must take action and understand the negative impact the 2017 business rates revaluation process has had on UK companies, particularly those in the retail sector.
They are now urging the new PM to immediately freeze any further business rate increases next year because “few businesses can cope with yet another rise on top of unprecedented rises in the last few years”.
On top of this, they have called the government to immediately remove downward phasing of business rates payments, review and implement a policy to reduce the multiplier from 50p to 34p in the £1, and reform the whole “complicated” rates reform appeals system.
Faulkner said: “Coupled with uncertainty created by Brexit, firms up and down the country are facing severe price pressures right now, and it was no surprise to see a sharp increase in the number of companies concerned about rising business rates in our latest Quarterly Business Report.
“While Mr Johnson is understandably fixated on securing Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, it is essential that he also concentrates on fixing the fundamentals of the domestic economy in a bid to strengthen its competitiveness. Introducing a freeze on rates, simplifying and making this outmoded system fairer would be a good start. To echo the sentiment projected by the incoming PM in his victory speech, the hard work needs to start now.”
Webber added: “Business rates contribute £26bn to the country’s coffers and are a vital source of income for local authority funding. Putting the burden of who pays it on an ever-decreasing number of companies is both foolhardy and dangerous, particularly if such bills are the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.
“The new prime minister has said he wants to support business and, as mayor of London, he did call for a cut to business rates. I really hope he can navigate us through the Brexit negotiations and then turn to the choppy waters of business rates, before they finally overturn the ship – lifeboats and all.
“Let’s see if he follows through when he gets his hands on the tiller. The jury is indeed out.”