National business rates’ policy – your questions answered?

Retail Week questioned the Conservative and Labour parties on business rates among other topical issues recently.

The two main political parties touched upon a raft of business-related political concerns in their manifestos, from high streets to zero-hour contracts but when it comes to business rates it does seem to be a "light touch" on policy detail. Retail Week chose a handful of topics to try and gain a deeper insight and I thought some of their musings worth a mention.

Conservative minister for culture, communications and creative industries Ed Vaizey was asked how will a reform of business rates help larger businesses and what will be done to incorporate businesses' digital sales on this physical tax.

He replied; "Business rates affect a vast range of businesses and sectors – and we need to make sure the system is fit for the 21st century. That's why we've launched a comprehensive review of the system to make sure we get the changes right, so that from 2017 the system works better for business. This is just one part of what we've been doing to deliver a more competitive system."

So nothing new whatsoever to add to the debate there then Mr Vaizey!

When Labour were asked the same questions, they reverted back to their tried and trusted manifesto pledges, stating: "Labour will cut – then freeze – businesses rates, helping 1.5 million small business premises. When pressed on how the party would help UK businesses access "world class digtial infrastructure and 5G technology." They also answered in true generic style with: "The next Labour government will ensure that businesses in all parts of the country have access to affordable high-speed broadband by the end of the next Parliament…."

I think I will make a point of contacting small businesses in the Orkneys, the Shetlands and Barrow in Furness before 2019 and see how their business broadband is getting on…

Interestingly, Retail Week asked the same questions of the Liberal Democrats, but the party did not respond with any answers by deadline – obviously retailers were not top of their to-do list that week!

If anyone is interested, here are the Highlights from the party manifestos.

· Conservative manifesto at a glance: tax, new jobs and an EU referendum

· Labour manifesto pledges to raise minimum wage and ban zero-hours

· Liberal Democrats commit to reforming business rates in manifesto

· UKIP manifesto promises fines for big businesses that delay supplier payments

· Greens pledge to increase corporation tax and end zero-hour contracts

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Keep up the good work Stuart. Always informative and entertaining. But it’s just "Orkney" and "Shetland" ;-)

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