Relief on increased Business Rates still not good enough – Real Reform necessary

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce reaction to the budget.

John Bridge OBE DL, Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Short-term support for firms hardest-hit by business rates rises will be welcomed, along with commitments to technical education, digital connectivity, easier R&D tax credits, and a one-year delay to digital tax reporting for the very smallest firms. Conversely, hikes to dividend taxes and national insurance for the self-employed will be viewed far less positively by entrepreneurs.

“The business communities’ hardest-hit by this year’s business rates revaluation will breathe a little easier thanks to the Chancellor’s decision to offer a package of transitional reliefs.

“We now challenge the local councils in our Chamber area to use every penny of the new funding announced by the Chancellor to offer relief to the hardest-hit businesses without excuses and without delay.

“However welcome, measures that mitigate the short-term impact of business rate rises are little more than a sticking plaster. The radical changes needed to improve the broken business rates system will have to wait for another day. The campaign for radical reform – and an end to punishing levels of business property tax to ensure the Treasury raises enough to fund local services – continues.”

“The decision not to bring forward the switch in indexation from RPI to CPI will cost firms billions – bills they can ill-afford when taken together with other policy costs like the Apprenticeship Levy, pensions auto-enrolment and higher tax on insurance premiums.

“The government had an opportunity to re-visit the detail of reform to the appeals system but has not addressed the serious concerns ratepayers have. This will mean that more businesses seeking to correct an erroneous bill could go without redress.

“In the longer-term, fundamental change is needed, including stripping plant and machinery from rates assessments that does so much to discourage business investment.

“There was however a noticeable and disappointing absence of any new support for exporters, or measures to encourage international trade in this Budget. As we begin the Brexit process, it’s more important than ever to get UK businesses trading their goods and services with the world. The government must do more to incentivise and promote companies to be ambitious and trade to new markets.”