Business Rates are responsible for many businesses struggling to trade across the city, and the MP for York Central, Rachael Maskell, has now called on the Local Government Minister with responsibility for Business Rates, Marcus Jones, to intervene.

The MP has been working with groups of traders across the city for some time, however over inflated property rental costs and the high level of business rates paid in York is having a damaging impact on businesses and our high streets. At the second meeting held with traders across the west of the city on Friday night at the Gateway Centre on Front Street, Ms Maskell heard how business rates are causing traders to struggle. The cumulative costs of running a business is prohibitive for so many, so outlets are let to a narrow groups of traders, rather than a wide range of independent businesses, which is what the community want to see.

Rachael Maskell is already following up a long list of issues generated by businesses from across the city, from anti-social behaviour, parking, cost of road closures, repairs of drains and bus routes, however every conversation ends on the subject of business rates. The recent valuation is set to see the rates rise even further for many businesses in the city, some saying that this could price them out of the high street.

Traders are just seeking fairness to enable them to carry out their business, but also to provide a focus for the local community. While the Government is due to consult over the future of business rates, Ms. Maskell has made it clear that this cannot just be about who gets to keep the rates, but must be about how rates can be used to boost the local economy.

Currently there is insufficient challenge in the system, so overseas investors may let their properties for a good return, however this results in inflated business rates, and therefore a limited number of businesses being able to sustain themselves. The mix of businesses has also been raised at meetings held, since the variety of shops are simply not available in parts of the city.

On Friday night, Adrian Hirst, local Valuations Office representative, admitted that rateable values are “skewed” due to inflated levels of rent but he said the problem was out of the Valuations Office’s control. He explained that they, as the agency, carry out a review of properties every five years as a statutory requirement from the Local Government Finance Act 1988. The law needs to change.

Martyn Weller, York Branch Chairman, from the Federation of Small Businesses also addressed the meeting and reported that other towns and cities across the country are experiencing similar problems.  He explained that the FSB have long been calling for a fundamental reform of the business rate system to make it fairer for everyone.   

Rachael Maskell MP says:
“It is clear that the Business Rate model is broken and is failing businesses and failing communities. I have written to Marcus Jones, the Local Government Minister with responsibility for Business rates, to call for a meeting to discuss the specific challenges we are facing in York and to see how we can see a new system brought forward to ‘Save the Great British High Street’. Having celebrated the success of Bishy Road, the Government must also provide vital support to areas struggling across the city.

“Having organised a number of meetings for businesses in York, including the most recent in Acomb, it is clear that a change in approach will not only assist small retail outlets in the city centre, but right across the city. The new valuations which are now available on the Valuation Office website have brought further woe to many traders, whilst some have gained slightly.

“I also raised my concerns with the Chamber of Commerce last Friday at their annual meeting with MPs.

“In an age where traders are challenged by on-line shopping and the convenience of retail parks, it is vital that residents across the city support their local shops. Traders associations are doing everything they can to help support local shops, however it is the community which can really bring the high streets back to life again. I will continue to lean on the Government to ensure it plays its part in revitalising local shops.

“If there is anyone in my constituency who is experiencing a problem with business rates they should get in touch with my office on 01904 623713 and I will try to help.”

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