Friday, 11 September 2015 09:38

MPs secure pledge on business rates

Written by  Ruralcity Media
MPs secure pledge on business rates

THE government has promised MPs it will take "full account" of the rural impact as it reviews business rates.

It follows a Westminster Hall debate secured by Jake Berry, Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen, Lancashire.

The debate, on Tuesday (8 September), saw MPs discuss how business rates apply in rural areas.

Recent changes to the practice of the Valuation Office Agency, which values properties for the purpose non-domestic rates, were unfairly impacting on rural communities, said Mr Berry.

The MP highlighted the case of a constituent who faced paying £3,000 in business rates on his stables – even though they had never been used for any commercial purpose.

Mr Berry said: "Sadly, the case I have mentioned is not the only example of unfair taxation being applied to the countryside economy,"

Business rates were also being assessed against agricultural land that had hosted music festivals and on cash machines in village shops.

"A small village store or post office may be exempt from business rates, due to this government's action, through small business rates relief, but creating a second rateable unit at the shop means that it is hit with a bill in excess of £3,000."

Up to 1000 cash machines were at risk of removal as shops sought to avoid the charge. But this would leave rural communities without easy access to cash.

Local government minister Marcus Jones responded, telling MPs that the government recognised the importance of the rural economy.

Since the 2010 election, the government had doubled small business rate relief for more than five years, said Mr Jones.

It had also given local authorities powers to grant their own discounts as they saw fit.

Mr Jones said: "Through our review of business rates administration, we have listened to businesses to find out the changes to business rates that they want to see."

"Therefore, we will ensure that from 2017 the business rates system properly reflects the structure of a modern economy, and provides clearer billing and better information-sharing."

The government's Enterprise Bill would also introduce a faster and more efficient appeal system, with a wider review of business rates due to be completed this autumn.

"In that review, we will certainly take full account of the position of rural businesses and the other matters raised in this debate," said Mr Jones.

"We expect that review to report by the end of 2015."

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