YOU DID IT! Or did you? Nah, probably not

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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So, let me see if I’ve got this whole ‘Osborne bows to people pressure, press power, etc. over business rates whoop-de-do isn’t democracy a fine and functioning beast’ thing straight in my head.

Bear with us.

Right, I’ve got two town centre shops. Same size, same rateable value, side by side. Cheek by jowl, if you like.

One of them – the one on the right, in my imagined scenario – sells pens, pencils, nibs, rubbers, ink, pads, paper of all kinds...

That’s right. It’s a stationers.

This shop has been owned by the same family for generations, so long as the premises have existed.

They make an adequate living. Support one or two full-time jobs, two or three part-time.

Nobody is getting rich, at best they comfortably get by.

Their neighbour landed six months ago. They take bets and host the maximum number of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) permitted by law.

That’s right. It’s a bookmakers.

The latest branch of a national behemoth, their ninth or tenth or moreth in the parish.

This manifestation of a rampant 21st century plague will, via those FOBTs alone, extract somewhere in the region of £200,000 from the community, while supporting, say, two or three full-time jobs, three or four part-time.

All low paid, naturally. People are, however, getting rich. Just not in the vicinity of this fictional shop.

Our betting giant records annual profits well into nine figures. They also, a few years ago, shunted large parts of their operations offshore, for tax purposes. Nnnnice.

Now, nothing seen or heard out of Government convinces me their promised review of business rates is likely to favour either enterprise over the other. After all, the two per cent cap announced Thursday is based on rateable value, the whole system is based on rateable value, why shouldn’t any reduction or re-organisation be based on the same measure?

Of course, should a coming cut be pegged to profit or turnover of the whole company we can then – and only then – award ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done. A rare win for local over corporate!

But if George ultimately rubber stamps a multi-million tax break for bookies and payday lenders and Greggs and every chain store giant you can think of we might ask ourselves to whose clarion call Osborne really harkened.