This week’s Autumn Statement was the final one this Parliament. It represented a last chance for George Osborne to offer real help for our high streets and get to grips with the out of touch tax that is business rates. Over the last few years we’ve seen big changes in consumer behavior due to technology and the shift towards online shopping – and yet the Tories and Lib Dems continue to tax shops based on an outdated 20th century model.
Worse still, by cancelling a much-needed revaluation, business rates bills in Rochdale are completely out of touch with economic reality and have no bearing on the current climate. That’s why we’ve got the absurd situation where an empty fish’n’chip shop on Yorkshire Street has an annual rent of £6,000 and an annual business rates bill of £19,000.
We need radical reform immediately not a vague promise of something being done in the next parliament. The march of progress will not wait while ministers keep dithering and it’s time we created a level playing field for small businesses on the high street to remain competitive.
Offering traders small discounts that are more or less swallowed up by an announced increase in next year’s business rates is not the answer I was looking for from the Chancellor.
If we’re going to encourage investment in Rochdale and create a healthy entrepreneurial environment then we need progressive taxation. A tax that’s linked to the economic performance of businesses rather than one that just keeps going up every year regardless of the state of the economy would be my preference.
In the meantime, despite the Government’s failure to deliver for Rochdale, our Council is doing all it can to support the town centre. They have just announced three hours free parking, which is great news, and I know that councilors are currently looking at other incentives to encourage new businesses to invest in the town.
At the time of writing this, I am putting the finishing touches to the MP’s dinner for the Mayor’s charity I’ve organized. The former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, will be the guest of honour and I hope to raise as much money as possible for a great cause.
I’d also like to thank readers for the kind messages I’ve received after winning the MPs’ campaigner of the year award last week. I was very humbled to receive this award and will continue to campaign hard on important issues in Rochdale.