I know many local residents and businesses have been concerned about the impact of the business rates revaluation which came into effect from April, particularly on Ludlow.
Having spent over 20 years working with a retail business, I am aware periodic reviews of business rates reviews take place. But in this latest revaluation Ludlow businesses, especially retailers, pubs and holiday lettings providers seem to have been particularly adversely impacted by large increases compared with the previous valuation. For retailers this is most likely due to a number of large national businesses moving into town centre locations in recent years, which may have inflated the rental values of some shops.
While the majority of businesses in Ludlow have seen their rates fall or freeze due to the doubling of small business rate relief threshold from £6,000 to £12,000, I am aware that some businesses face steep rises in their rateable values, and therefore their business rate bills. Many of these businesses will also benefit from transitional measures which will phase in the impact over a number of years.
When the scale of the impact became clear, working with individual businesses and the Ludlow Chamber of Commerce, I contacted the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to seek an explanation for the significant increases proposed for many businesses in town and the surrounding area. I am very pleased that after back and forth the Valuation Office Agency agreed to send a senior delegation to visit Ludlow to see at first hand the concerns we had raised.
This visit was delayed by the General Election, but last Friday the Chief Valuation Officer came to Ludlow, with the regional director and local Shropshire officer, so they could hear more about the impact of these increases on local businesses.
We met with representatives of the Ludlow Chamber of Commerce, Ludlow Town Council and a local ratings expert, making the case to the VOA that these steep increases did not reflect conditions on the ground, and could damage businesses which are vital to our local economy and sustain many jobs.
We also took the opportunity to walk around the town centre and demonstrate much of what makes Ludlow such a unique place to shop.
No commitments were made, other than a willingness to consider evidence from traders, but we felt this was an encouraging meeting, hopefully to help keep Ludlow special. If any trader wishes to provide more information about their circumstances, please contact me or Ludlow Chamber of Commerce.