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Business Rates

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 27 October 2009

As regular revaluations of the business rate system are required by statute, no impact assessment for 2010 is necessary. However, an impact assessment of the proposed 2010-11 transitional relief scheme, which caps revaluation increases at 5 per cent. for small properties and 12.5 per cent. for larger ones, was published on 8 July.

With next year’s revaluation set to hit smaller businesses disproportionately, not least because of the severe recession and debt problems, does the Minister, who I wish well in her new responsibilities, agree that it would be sensible, pragmatic and right to make small business rate relief automatic to every eligible firm?

I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about small businesses. I am glad to say, particularly when I know that his constituency has many empty shops as retailers have been badly affected by the recession, that retailers will be largely unaffected. They should see a reduction in business rates of 1 per cent., while in industry and manufacturing we will see a fall of 3 per cent. in business rates.

The Minister says she is concerned about the impact on small companies, but a report from Westminster city council today includes a survey showing that one in three businesses facing large rates rises believe that they will go bust as a result of them—with a devastating effect on jobs and communities. Nationally, there are 700,000 companies, most of them small ones, facing rates rises; what assessment has the Minister made of how many of them will go bust as a result? If Westminster city council can do it, why cannot she?

I can assure the hon. Lady that we are very concerned and actively watching the situation with small businesses, and that much of what is coming from the press and the Opposition at the moment is exaggerated. For example, the hon. Lady says that businesses in Westminster are facing rate rises of 10 per cent., but our calculations show that, with inflation and relief, none will face more than 3 per cent.