Even with the economy recovering, it is a struggle for many small corner shops to make a profit. While the cake is getting larger, their slice is getting thinner as online shopping zooms ahead.
Naturally the market adjusts – for instance, there are far more cafés on our high streets than we saw a generation ago. However, there is a community value to small shops which it is quite legitimate to recognise.
People don’t want to live in an area where the shops are boarded up. They want the convenience of a shop in close proximity to buy a newspaper or a pint of milk.
Thus cutting business rates is politically important. Labour’s idea is a divide and rule approach – they propose increasing Corporation Tax and using the proceeds for lower business rates. But it is not just big business that pays Corporation Tax. Most of the revenue comes from small and medium sized firms.
By contrast, the Conservatives are offering lower business rates and lower Corporation Tax. The Government has also made Small Business Rate Relief automatic – rather than shop keepers having to face a mountain of paperwork to obtain the discount they are entitled to. They can also spread the bill over 12 monthly installments – rather than the previous rule of 10 installments a year.
From this week, 300,000 eligible small shops in England will benefit from lower business rates. In some cases this could give a typical small shop, pub or restaurant with a rateable value of £10,000 savings of 30 per cent extra or more when compared to last year’s business rate bill.
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:
“A key part of the government’s long-term economic plan is to back business with lower taxes. Small shops are the lifeblood of local economies, and today’s changes will mean a massive boost to our town centres – helping to create more jobs and securing a better future for our children.
“A whole string of changes to business rates kick in today bringing new support to local shops, pubs and firms. In some cases shopkeepers could see their bills cut by a third extra or even more, which is worth thousands of pounds in tax breaks.
“Together with our sensible changes to planning rules and action to tackle unfair parking practices, we are helping local communities secure the future of their high streets.”
Michael Weedon, Deputy CEO of the British Independent Retail Association, said:
“The high street has been crying out for help on business rates for years and it was good to see the Chancellor fully recognise the need for action in extending rate relief and creating the £1,000 discount for small shops and leisure outlets at the same time as he recognised the need for far-reaching reform of this tax.”