Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, yet in a few weeks’ time many face eye-watering increases in their business rates.
Shifting property values made a revaluation of non domestic properties – business rates – necessary, but two years ago, on the eve of a general election, that was postponed.
From April 1, 2017, however, many businesses will see the impact.
Some revaluations seem perverse, for example stables and riding schools will see significant rises.
Elsewhere, it’s on our high streets that the effect may be most felt.
There are transitional arrangements, but these are somewhat less generous than previously.
There’s a new appeal system, but with the purpose of reducing the number of challenges.
The outcome is likely to be greater uncertainty for town centres at a time when, for example, in Whitley Bay the proposed closure of the Job Centre threatens to take services out of the town.
There is, however, a further worrying aspect to business rate revaluation.
With London property prices, and therefore rates, rising faster, London and the south east are likely to pay around 32 per cent of all business rates across the country.
However, pressure is growing for those areas to keep all of their business rates, rather than pool them for national redistribution.
Areas like North Tyneside would lose more than £20m, adding to the existing regional imbalance.
It’s time for an overhaul of the system before it’s too late for our vital small businesses.