There is no question that putting in place a strong economic plan, with the right conditions to allow business to thrive, is creating jobs and making life easier for local families across the Ludlow Constituency.
So I welcome the Government’s plan to cut Corporation Tax from 28% to 17% by 2020, and expand export markets, through the new Department for International Trade. I encourage local businesses to visit their website, at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-trade, to find free information and advice on how to develop exports.
But I am aware of concerns from local businesses from the current business rate review. Revaluations usually happen every five years, and allow business rates to be adjusted across the country to reflect changes in property market rents, with the last revaluation happening in 2010. Changes are due to take effect from April this year.
For many business in South Shropshire, this revaluation will actually see a freeze or reduction in rates. This is due to the Government introducing a permanent 100% increase in rate relief for small businesses – so from April this year, businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or less will pay no business rates at all.
But in South Shropshire some businesses located in areas where rents have been increasing (such as Ludlow town centre), and some businesses dependent on property (such as livery), with rateable values above this threshold (or the £15,000 taper threshold) are facing unexpectedly significant rises. This can be due to estimates made by the Valuation Office of increasing rents in the area or assumptions about the profitability of the business. It seems these assumptions may not reflect the reality on the ground.
I have met traders to discuss this and am concerned about the fairness of some of these proposed increases. So I have raised this issue with both the relevant Minister and the Valuation Office Agency. I have also this week written to the Chancellor to make him aware of my concerns.
Meanwhile, I am meeting more traders on Friday and am urging affected businesses to consider appealing the Valuation Office Agency’s valuation to provide actual rental and other evidence. This can be done online, at www.gov.uk/correct-your-business-rates. Unsuccessful appeals can be also challenged at Tribunal, with more information available at www.valuationtribunal.gov.uk.
South Shropshire’s economy is growing, but putting undue pressure on businesses has the potential to put jobs at risk and slow our long term growth. So I will continue to work with local traders to help maintain fairer taxes on local businesses.