Business Rates becoming a political football

Who would have thought that business rates could ignite such passion in our politicians these days – but they have.

An almighty row has broken out in the national media after Alliance Boots boss Stefano Pessina said Ed Miliband would be a "catastrophe" for Britain. And to make sure he really put the Boots Alliance in, he added that the Labour leader's plans were "not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end it probably won't be helpful for them".

When that quote hit the headline it must have had the Labour press office spluttering into their morning coffee before they could scramble some kind of retort together, but when they did and they brought Business Rates into the fray. They promptly issued a rebuttal and said: "Labour will cut and then freeze business rates for 1.5 million business properties including thousands of high street retailers. In this way we will grow the economy so that it raises living standards for the many and not just a few at the top." Mmmm, not really "we shall fight on the beaches" stuff is it?

On the other side, it was Mr Pessina, who oversaw the £46 million merger of Alliance Boots with American firm Walgreens and he told The Sunday Telegraph that Labour's plans for the country would be damaging. For good measure he added: "If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe. The problem is would they act that way or not? One thing is to threaten and to shout but it is completely different to be in charge and to manage the country day to day." Slightly more headline grabbing, I think.

Chancellor George Osborne, I bet, all the time was rubbing his hands in glee. He was very quick to seize on the comments saying: "This is a clear warning from the head of one of Britain's biggest employers about the economic catastrophe the UK would suffer if Ed Miliband's policies were put into effect."

So, the general electioneering is now in full swing and business rates could turn into something of a political football over the coming weeks if this little spat is anything to go by. Watch this space….

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