More concerns over business rates after Chesterfield bar shuts

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins says the business rates system needs changing.
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins says the business rates system needs changing.

A Derbyshire commerce chief and Chesterfield's MP have voiced concerns about business rates after the closure of a town firm.

As reported by the Derbyshire Times last week, Chesterfield's popular S41 Bar shut on New Year’s Day, resulting in 12 job losses.

Nick Carter, who managed the nightspot on St Mary’s Gate, said: "We were paying just under £3,000 in business rates per month.

"We couldn't continue paying that amount of money.

"We're not the only Chesterfield business struggling as a result of extortionate business rates."

Following on from those comments, Chris Hobson, director of policy at East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: "Business rates were revalued in 2017, the first time in seven years, resulting in many firms suffering a sharp increase in what they had to pay, even after application of the various reliefs available.

"According to the chamber's Quarterly Economic Survey for the final three months of 2017, the latest information available, 22 per cent of respondents said business rates were of greater concern than they had been in the previous three months.

"The chamber has been lobbying for years for changes to what it describes as the 'broken' business rates system.

"Business rates are a tax on commerce that takes no account of a firm’s ability to pay and which lands on the doorstep before the firm has earned even a single penny.

"They are set by central Government, based on a perceived rental value of the premises and installed plant, which discourages investment."

He added that 'there are changes happening' and Derbyshire is part of a pilot project.

He said: "From April, the eight local authorities in the county that are taking part in the pilot will retain for local investment 100 per cent of the business rates they collect.

"At the moment, unitary authorities are allowed to keep 50 per cent of what they collect.

"The rest is sent to central Government and is redistributed nationally according to Government's perceived need.

"Councils haven't yet been told they can set their own business rates but they will have the power to adjust reliefs to encourage businesses to an area and to assist those that might be struggling."

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins described business rates as a 'cash cow' and said that concerns about the system were 'constantly' raised with him.

"The system needs a complete overhaul," he added.

In October, Labour announced it would revalue business rates every year - rather than every five years - in a bid to help struggling firms.

Shadow business minister Bill Esterson said: "We will introduce statutory annual revaluations so business rates reflect the current market and so there are no sudden shock increases."

Councils calculate business rates bills by multiplying the 'rateable value' of an individual property, which is set by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), by a 'multiplier' set by central Government.

A VOA spokesman said: "Rateable values are based on an open market rental value on a fixed date - for this revaluation it’s April 1, 2015. Rateable values in the rating lists are used by councils to calculate business rates bills. Our duty is to maintain accurate rating lists.

"We use a wide range of property information, including rental and other evidence to compare values across similar types of properties in order to set the rateable value.

"If a ratepayer thinks the details we hold about their property are incorrect, they can see exactly how their valuation has been calculated and update underlying facts, if needed, by registering with our check and challenge service."

Business rates are charged on most non-domestic properties like:

► Shops;

► Offices;

► Pubs;

► Warehouses;

► Factories;

► Holiday rental homes or guest houses.

You may be able to get a discount from your council on your business rates if you’re eligible for one or more business rates relief schemes.

For help with your property's rateable value, contact the Valuation Office Agency.

For help with your business rates bill (for example, to pay in instalments) or rate relief, contact your council.