Local business owners joined us in Grantham last Friday to raise awareness of our Freeze Business Rates campaign. As we have previously mentioned, business rates went up by 4.6 per cent in 2011 and 5.6 per cent in 2012, and they are set to rise by a further 2.6 per cent in April.
One of those joining us was Jo Churchill, of SLS Scaffolding. She said Grantham was in a perfect location for those who want to commute to Nottingham, Peterborough, and London, but empty shops do not generate a feel-good factor. This is not encouraging people to come and live there. When I mentioned to her that if this latest increase is implemented in April, there will have been a rise of almost 13 per cent in three years, she said, "Have any of us seen our business incomes go up by 13 per cent in that time? We haven't. We can't keep penalising people who are trying to earn a living by grinding them into the ground."
We were also joined by Tim Radley, a partner in local firm, Smart Lettings. "I recently took on two apprentices, and would have taken on a third, but the business rates I have to pay have taken that option away from me", he said. Jo Churchill agreed, "We have taken on an apprentice and would have taken on another one", she said. She went on to comment that the whole relief system is too complex. "People don't apply for relief, even when they are entitled to it, because the whole thing is written in Swahili." These views were echoed by the others present.
George Osborne needs to hear the views of ordinary people trying to earn a living and create employment. If it wasn't for high business rates, more apprenticeships would be created. If it wasn't for our opaque, byzantine tax system, more business owners would understand how to claim the rate relief they are entitled to.
It's not too late to write to your MP and express your views. Many businesses are struggling and desperately need a break. Go to freezebusinessrates.org and lend your support to this important campaign.