Rates bill putting jobs ‘in jeopardy’ at studio after £5,000 demand

Ben Whyntie, owner of Old Blacksmiths Studio in Hilsea
Ben Whyntie, owner of Old Blacksmiths Studio in Hilsea
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THE director of a recording studio is backing a campaign by The News to lower business rates after being landed with a £5,000 bill.

Ben Whyntie, director of the Old Blacksmiths Studios in Hilsea, Portsmouth, says a visit by a valuation officer left him owing money, despite no changes being made to the property since its last inspection.

He is appealing and believes he and three members of staff are at risk unless the bill is cancelled.

Mr Whyntie is backing The News’ campaign, which is calling on chancellor George Osborne to look again at how business rates are calculated.

He said: ‘I fully support the campaign for a review and overhaul of the current ratings system. The rates are extremely high and counterproductive to helping small businesses grow.

‘I have paid non-domestic business rates of £464 a month to Portsmouth City Council from February 1, 2013.

‘I saw no reason these rates would change as layout and usage of the premises was staying the same.

‘The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) revalued in September.

‘Considering the property was valued in 2011 and has not changed its usage or layout, I was shocked to receive a letter from the VOA that my rateable value had increased from £11,250 to £13,250.

‘The reason stated for this increase is “alterations have been made to the property”. This has been backdated to when I took over as leaseholder of the property.

‘The property has been in its current layout, size and usage since 2006.

‘All four valuations since 2006 differ in how they have recorded the size and layout of property.

‘The amount is a huge sum of money to a small local business like mine and has severely put my business’s immediate future and the jobs of myself and my employees in jeopardy.’

A spokesman for the agency said: ‘The VOA cannot comment on individual cases.

‘However, if the ratepayer doesn’t agree with the decision we reach, they can contact us to discuss it and we will try to resolve it or they can make an appeal against the rateable value.’

The VOA sets the rateable value on all non-domestic property, which councils use to calculate the bill.

The rateable value represents the open market rental value at a set date, April 1, 2008.

The News launched its campaign to pile pressure on Mr Osborne to announce changes to the business tax model in his Autumn Statement on December 3. The government had originally announced earlier in the year that a revaluation may not be held until at least 
2017.

To sign a petition backing the campaign, go online to change.org/p/uk-government-launch-an-immediate-review-of-the-business-rates-system-in-england-freezing-rates-in-the-
interim.

n If you are affected by business rates, call the Newsdesk on (023) 9262 
2118.