Dras­tic new rates put ru­ral busi­nesses at risk

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THERE’S go­ing to be an up­ris­ing,’ proph­e­sies Glyn Davies, Tory MP for Mont­gomeryshire, in re­sponse to the puni­tive Busi­ness Rate hike an­nounced last week. The changes could push thou­sands of ru­ral com­pa­nies to break­ing point when they come into ef­fect in April.

Rid­ing schools (right), liv­ery yards, stud farms, vine­yards and live­stock mar­kets will be the worst hit, along with ken­nels, cat­ter­ies, polo grounds, race­courses and rac­ing sta­bles. How­ever, photo booths, bingo halls, ce­ment and steel works and oil re­finer­ies will ben­e­fit from a re­duc­tion. In all, rates will fall for 920,000 busi­nesses, stay the same for 42,000, but in­crease for 510,000.

The rates are par­tially cal­cu­lated against the rentable value of a prop­erty, so ru­ral busi­nesses, which usu­ally oc­cupy more space, are put at an un­fair dis­ad­van­tage. ‘A rid­ing school is not the same as, say, a span­ner fac­tory,’ points out Sarah Phillips of the Bri­tish Horse So­ci­ety (BHS).

Rates are nor­mally re­set ev­ery five years, but a two-year de­lay has meant that busi­nesses are faced with a mar­ket in­crease even more painful. The sys­tem has been crit­i­cised due to its fo­cus on bricks and mor­tar and, now, there are fur­ther calls for a re­view from MPS and lo­cal coun­cils, who worry that in­de­pen­dent traders will floun­der.

‘Treat­ing ru­ral busi­nesses as a cash cow is short-sighted. We should be look­ing to sup­port them where nec­es­sary through spe­cial ex­emp­tions, not slap­ping them with an even larger tax bill,’ laments Lib Dem Leader Tim Far­ron.

Busi­ness Sec­re­tary Greg Clark has re­jected calls for a re­think, but points to the £3.6 bil­lion be­ing spent on relief.

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