The TaxPayers’ Alliance in Bath joined a gathering of traders, alongside campaign group ‘Independent Shops of Bath’ (ISoB) and the Bath branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), protesting at high rents and business rates in the city. These, plus recent ill-advised transport measures, have resulted in tremendous pressures on independent traders in Bath. The very visible closure of many shops in the city centre is disconcerting. One shop in Bath’s Walcot Street, unsurprisingly empty at the moment, has a rent of £16,500, but a rateable value of £19,500. That means a Business Rates bill of around £9,500.
The ISoB and the FSB are calling on the new B&NES administration to consider the following concerns: to introduce a Code of Practice for B&NES Properties Division that actively helps independent traders negotiate a fair rent and sustainable rent; to lobby for reform of Business Rates on a national level and review their application locally to the advantage of independent traders; to recognise that the burden of business rates in an age of internet-shopping creates a disadvantage to city centre retailers; to facilitate the payment of compensation—possibly in the form of reduced business rates—to businesses affected by road closures or road works, particularly when these overrun.
Speaking on behalf of the FSB, the Bath branch chair Angela MacAusland said it was vital that the special role played by small, independent stores in the city was recognised and appreciated:
"One of the many reasons people visit – and indeed revisit – our beautiful city is to enjoy the unique and varied shopping experience on offer and our small, independent stores play a huge part in that," she said. "It is therefore crucial we do everything we can to retain the independent stores that bring colour and character to the city centre and we would welcome any action on rents and business rates which could support these aims."
In March, HM Treasury announced a review of national business rates. The Government’s review contains a series of questions that can be read here and the deadline for comments is 12 June 2015.