Drastic new rates put rural businesses at risk
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.