Lancashire leaders call for swift action over business rates overhaul

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Lancashire business leaders today called for swift action following the launch of a “radical” review of English business rates aimed at making the system fairer.

The announcement follows Chancellor George Osborne’s promise in last year’s autumn statement that the annual tax would be overhauled.

This is such an unfair tax which hits businesses across the country, before they’ve even made single pound in profit. While the government is asking a lot of vital questions in this review – for business it’s simply actions speaking louder than words.

Babs Murphy - Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce

Business leaders across the country have said for many years that the current business rates system is crippling them and stifling growth.

An online petition set up by the Lancashire Evening Post’s parent company Johnston Press calling for an overhaul of the business rates system was signed by more than 5,000 people last year.

Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said:

“We are delighted government is finally looking at a wholesale review of business rates.

“This is such an unfair tax which hits businesses across the country, before they’ve even made single pound in profit. While the government is asking a lot of vital questions in this review – for business it’s simply actions speaking louder than words.

“A complete transformation is needed and hopefully delivered sooner rather than later. If not, this will be seen as a missed opportunity which will act as a huge brake on investment and growth.”

The review, launched by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander this week, will report back by next year’s budget.

He said: “Our system of business rates was created nearly 30 years ago. Since that time, the worlds of commerce and industry have changed beyond recognition. I’ve been impressed by the representations made by the business community and I know that business rates are a considerable cost.”

New measures are due to come into force next month that mean small business rate relief is doubled for a further year, business rate discounts for smaller retail premises are increased and the rise in the multiplier will be capped at two per cent.

The British Retail Consortium’s director general Helen Dickinson today welcomed the review, saying the business rates system “acts as a major drag on our economy while punishing our local high street”.