LETTER: Drastic reform of business rates

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Councillor Jim Rae continues to try and scare us with dire warnings of what will happen to council revenues if the proposed North Horsham business park does not go ahead (Letters 20 Feb).

In telling us that we must pin all our hopes on the extra income he projects will accrue from the government’s proposed ‘Localisation of Business Rates scheme’ he brushes aside all the many criticisms and uncertainties surrounding this scheme, some of which were referred to by Roy Bayliss (a well respected former Finance Director at HDC) in his letter of 13 Feb.

What is truly amazing, however, is that Cllr Rae seems blissfully unaware that the entire system of business rates now stands to be drastically reformed, if not scrapped altogether, following pressure from business organisations such as the CBI and a pledge by the Prime Minister – as reported in the Daily Telegraph of 29 January (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/10603160/David-Cameron-pledges-radical-business-rates-reform.html).

A key factor that has prompted this move, as Cllr Rae should know, is that the present system increasingly penalises businesses, particularly retail shops, which have to compete with online retailers that do not pay business rates. In the absence of reform, therefore – probably involving a switch away from a property-based tax – we face the prospect of a decline of our town centres as traditional retailers move out and are replaced, if at all, by more charity shops (which benefit from significant rate relief). This is surely not a future many of us would wish to envisage.

As Cllr Rae rightly reminds us that we should base our comments and analysis on facts, perhaps he would do well to take his own advice.

HARRY SHUTT

Allingham Gardens, Horsham