The News’ campaign to persuade the government to launch an immediate review of the much-maligned business rates system is continuing to gather support.
Ahead of tomorrow’s Autumn Statement by chancellor George Osborne, more than 5,000 people have signed the petition, both in this newspaper and online.
The aim is to convince our leading politicians that business rates need to be overhauled now, rather than wait for a review in more than two years’ time.
We have also called for business rates to be frozen while this review is conducted, as part of our Shop Local campaign to support local retailers.
Our initiative has received praise from many quarters and now Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘The ratchet effect built into the current system sees many businesses paying rates that far exceed their rent and only ever increase, no matter how the economy is doing.
‘I would ask your readers who own a business and pay rates to make the case for fundamental reform of the system to their local MP. If we get fundamental reform right then the high street will get the shot-in-the-arm that it so badly needs and the next government will find it easier to rebalance the economy, secure more investment and remove the disincentives to operating on the high streets and in town centres.’
Ashley Highfield, the chief executive of The News owner Johnston Press, said: ‘It’s clear from the number of people that have signed our petition already the depth of feeling and support there is for small businesses up and down the country. Local businesses drive the local economy and when that happens communities then thrive.
‘As local media owners we have a duty to businesses – and the communities they serve – to ensure this remains on the news agenda if change is to happen and urge everyone to not only sign the petition but to shop locally, too.’
Our campaign has captured the imagination of people from all over the country.
Louise Thalmann, from Widley, said: ‘Being a small business shop owner, I understand all too well the stress and strain that the rates add to my finances each month, especially within the first two years.
‘Local independent businesses are great for the community. They bring people into our shopping centres and precincts and boost the economy.
‘Imagine if we had rate relief – it would allow many of us to employ staff and would give us the best possible chance of surviving our first two years which are always the toughest.’