Promises promises – party manifestos lacking business bite
I have been doing a bit of my own research this week into what pledges exactly the main parties are making in the final days towards the General Election when it comes to business rates.
One thing has become abundantly clear. Every major party it seems is in favour of some form of business rates reform but not a single one has an actual idea as to what form this should take.
The Conservatives currently have their business rates review underway but it could be weeks even months before that materialises into a working proposal – maybe never if Labour/SNP come into a coalition. Labour also promises reform but is very light on the details. They mention Business Rates under their economic policy banner but it's pretty cursory, saying: "We'll support small businesses by cutting business rates for 1.5 million small firms" – something the Tories can equally claim to have done already with the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR).
The Liberal Democrats' manifesto stated it would complete the ongoing review of business rates while "prioritising reforms that lessen the burden on smaller businesses", as well as ensuring high streets "remain competitive". Again small businesses get a mention but that's about it. As I said, light on detail.
And whilst SNP policy on business rates doesn't affect English firms, they are also talking about helping small business north of the border and claim to have introduced the most competitive business rates in the UK.
As you get to the minority parties then business rates as an issue seems to disappear in to the ether.
The Green Party had more than 30 "Long Term" goals laid out on its Economy Page but not a single one of them had the word "Business" in it. Marine/Coastal, the very optimistic Peace/Defence policy and even Tourism was cited as a long term goals but, nope, nothing under "Business".
UKIP's was my favourite however, when I clicked on a Google link that talked about UKIP's policy on the business rates. The URL said it was for http://www.ukip.org/ukip_supports_small_businesses but it sent me to a blank page that simply read "not found" – I don't want to be too cruel but it pretty much sums up the UKIP manifesto in my book – or perhaps you are supposed to submit your own policy and they just promise to implement it once they are in power?
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is the latest big name to call on the government to extend the business rates holiday beyond April 2021.
The retail and hospitality sectors are mobilising the troops with dire warnings that thousands of business are at risk if the rates holiday isn’t extended beyond April 2021.
The pandemic has led to more than 50,000 extra appeals being lodged against business rates by Scottish firms alone.