On 5 November 2012, we launched our 'Freeze Business Rates' campaign with the British Retail Consortium, and since then thousands of our supporters have written to their MPs urging them to support a freeze in business rates.
It was disappointing to say the least that in his Budget earlier this year, George Osborne didn't listen to not only us and our supporters, but also to people like Ian Shaw from Rochdale. Mr Shaw was forced to close his Fish and Chip shop a few months ago and cited the cripplingly high business rates he had to pay as the main contributory factor. If the Government genuinely wants small businesses in particular to thrive (at the weekend, George Osborne said "small firms are the lifeblood of our economy") it cannot continue to punish people like Mr Shaw.
It has been widely reported that the Chancellor is going to announce in his Autumn Statement tomorrow that the rise in business rates next year will be capped at 2 per cent. Although a cap is better than a 3.2 per cent increase, it does not go far enough. Business rates went up 4.6 per cent in 2011, 5.6 per cent in 2012 and 2.6 per cent this year, and the very least George Osborne could do is freeze them next year.
Businesses cannot pay tax, no more than a car, a television, or a house can. Just because Council Tax is levied on your home doesn't mean your home pays the bill. You do, and business taxes are either passed on to consumers through higher prices; employees through lower wages; or, as in the example I gave earlier, businesses may not be able to survive the crippling costs of business taxes. They may be forced to close their doors for good, and have to make their staff redundant.
So come on George, give businesses a break and commit to a freeze in business rates for at least the next two years.