Expert Dismisses Labour Business Rates Tokenism As Re-Arranging The Deck Chairs

A leading business rates adviser has dismissed the Labour leader’s latest proposals on business rates as ‘tokenism’ which misses the point that the entire business rates process needs a fundamental review.

Property adviser Gerald Eve’s head of rating Jerry Schurder said: “I welcome Ed Miliband’s contribution to the debate. But it would have been preferable for the Labour party to give careful consideration to the whole fairness of the rating system rather than make promises that presuppose little further change to a tax that is widely felt to need more substantial reform. This is re-arranging the deck chairs while our high street steams towards an iceberg.”

Miliband will today announce that if elected Labour will freeze the uniform business rate increase for 2015/16 and 2016/17 for all rateable values below £50,000. This would be paid for by reversing the Government’s planned 1% corporation tax reduction for that year.

Schurder said: “This is quite clever politically as it offers something which applies to most properties but for which the costs are relatively modest.” But he added that “tinkering” will add unnecessary complexity and additional costs for both businesses and local authorities.

He pointed out the rates bills for 2015/16 will already have been issued in March 2015. For bills to be cut only after the general election would require a statutory instrument followed by the reissue of 1.6m bills and a recalculation of liabilities and monthly payments. “Will this be worth the effort and aggravation to save an average business only £15 per month?” Schurder asked.

“There is no indication that Labour will commit to continue the enhanced small business rates relief which has existed since October 2010 but is due to expire next April although many people believe the Coalition will extend it. In terms of certainty SMEs would have preferred to have heard that this much more beneficial scheme would be continued by a Labour administration.”