A leading Midlands commercial property agent has angrily attacked the Government for landing the sector with a bill for an additional £1.35 billion in business rates next year as a consequence of September’s 5.6 per cent increase in the Retail Price Index.
Redditch-based John Truslove said the hike, the biggest for over 20 years, was “utterly outrageous”.
The Uniform Business Rate will rocket from 43.3p per £ of rateable value to 45.7p.
And Mr Truslove is furious that it comes as the Government maintains its refusal to abolish empty property rates despite being ideologically opposed – insisting public finances are so bad it can’t do without the money.
He said: “Most of the businesses currently paying general rates would love to increase their prices by five per cent, but know that if they did they would lose customers.
“They understand the commercial realities something that seems foreign to politicians who load burden after burden onto business.
“However, my main concern is for retired people who put money aside, maybe scrimped and saved, to purchase their pension by way of a rented property be it commercial or residential.
“All well and good if it is rented; absolutely 1000 per cent toxic if empty.
“I believe void rates to be wholly unfair – amounting to daylight robbery. It is disingenuous of the current Coalition to say they cannot afford to reinstate either zero or concessionary general rates for void properties when they blatantly waste money elsewhere, for example giving foreign aid to China and India.”
Mr Truslove said ever since the UBR was introduced in 1990 successive governments had linked it to the previous September’s inflation figure even though the legislation permits the adoption of a lesser amount.
The rates surge is worse for some 171,000 businesses whose bills are still being phased in following the 2010 revaluation. For these ratepayers it is a 26.7 per cent increase.
Mr Truslove said: “It is generally thought inflation will fall back next year – and probably as fast as it has risen.
“But that is no use to struggling businesses which are in dire straits now. It should have held business rates for 2012/13. After all, they found the money to freeze Council Tax for a second successive year.”
And he pointed out that the Government used the lower CPI measure of inflation for the likes of benefit payments.
“Why can’t they do the same on business rates. If they really want to get the economy ticking over again then they need to encourage the regional commercial property market, particularly those looking to take office space, sheds and other types of business premises.
“Get the inquiries rolling again, get the deals being done … and it will create jobs and prosperity. Empty property rates are a charge on both.”