Headlines: March 19th, 2013

Small firms believe that the extra levy payable from April on top of standard business rates will bring little or no benefits.

The Forum of Private Business asked members for for their views on how the new supplementary Business Rates will benefit them. The money will be spent on local projects after consultation with councils.

The Forum’s research showed well over half of members polled, at 56 per cent, felt the changes would have minimal or no impact on their businesses, while 6 per cent felt that they would end up paying for something that did not benefit them. Just 22 per cent felt there would be a positive impact on the local economy.

The research also showed low levels of confidence that councils could work with local businesses to improve the local economy. 33 per cent were sceptical and 43 per cent very sceptical. Just under 20 per cent of respondents were confident that councils and businesses could work together.

Alex Jackman, the Forum’s Head of Policy said: “The overriding message here is that small businesses have little confidence in their local councils to spend their money wisely, and with added benefit to their business.

“Some respondents in our research said their councils already focussed more on town centres, others that the primary focus was on larger businesses. The lack of long term and other business-focussed spending on things such as road projects or planning support were other reasons why businesses were critical of their council.

“Fundamentally, businesses don’t believe councils work well with small businesses, or are competent enough to come up with schemes that will really lead to economic growth.

“Some businesses felt that council officers were too unaccountable for the damage that they did to local businesses and, particularly in retail there has been a focus on the creation of “new jobs” through out of town centres without any focus on the greater number of jobs lost or endangered on the high street.

“The bottom line is that small businesses are concerned with the way councils spend their money, and with good reason,” he added.
In total 75 per cent of firms polled said they would rather not see any supplementary business rates in their area even if the cost was small – the average rise is thought to be around 0.4 per cent. Not one business was supportive of any levy over 5 per cent.