Stuart Hicks, managing director of rating consultant Dunlop Heywood, is warning of a severe knock-on effect for thousands of North West businesses if Ministers back down over planned rates rises this April.
While business leaders and retailers in London and the South East have been protesting over business rate rises due to start on 1 April following the implementation of the 2017 Rating List, little has been said in defence of other regions where business rates are set to fall, according to Hicks.
“What people have not been talking about is the fact that, by law, any new Rating List has to be fiscally neutral,” said Hicks. “That means any concessions the Government give before 1 April in terms of limiting or phasing in the rises will have a knock-on effect elsewhere in the country.
“Northern businesses – particularly the North West, Yorkshire and the North East – have been paying inflated business rates for two years and, even when the Revaluation was confirmed for 2017, they were told that those decreases were to be phased in.
“Just when they think there is light at the end of this particular tunnel, there is now the threat that ministers will cave in to London-centric pressure to help businesses that have already enjoyed two years of ‘subsidised’ business rates.”
Communities secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond have borne the brunt of the recent business rates’ backlash and it has been reported the Chancellor may now use March’s budget to lengthen the period of the transitional rates relief scheme for companies hardest hit by proposed increases.
Hicks added: “The spotlight over the last few weeks has been very much focused on the effect on London, its retailers and small businesses there, but we didn’t see this media furore in 2015 when the Northern regions desperately needed help. We are seeing a classic North/South divide once again when it comes to voices being heard at national level.”