Warnings on health of Britain’s high streets continue

There’s still a lot of warnings flying around about the health of Britain’s high streets with the Federation of Small Businesses wading into the current debate.

The FSB is warning that its members could struggle because of last month’s rise in business rates, compounded by the increase in the National Living Wage.

It follows the rating revaluation by the government, which was introduced in 2017. The Government estimates that 510,000 businesses will see an increase in their business rates, 420,000 will stay the same and 920,000 a decrease this year and going forward.

But the FSB is more concerned that increases in rates’ bills are set to significantly outpace inflation this year and many of its members feeling they are being penalised in order to soften the blow for the losers. Bills are falling slowly for some to help cushion the blow for those whose bills are rising.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the FSB said: “Rising business rates are threatening high streets all over the country. This is a regressive tax that hits firms before they’ve made their first penny in turnover, let alone profit. Too many small firms have been left waiting months for support from the ’emergency’ business rates hardship fund launched this time last year.”

It seems obvious that more reform across business rates is needed but we shouldn’t forget the 920,000 businesses which should see a reduction in their rates – the winners aren’t the ones contacting the media to talk about business rates and so we are getting a skewed “doom ‘n’ gloom” view of business rates that perhaps isn’t truly reflective nationally. What you also find is that the national media reporting on the issue are often London-based and don’t want to travel too far when it comes to finding their case studies; hence the south east businesses hit hardest by the Revaluation are often to ones found to speak out.

Having more regular revaluations will help, as well as business rates now being linked to the lower Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation, not the Retail Prices Index. This move is worth £2.3bn to businesses over the next five years, according to Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Let’s hope we hear more of the good news stories over the coming months that represent a truer picture of what is going on nationally, and not just spitting distance around the M25.

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