BUDGET PREVIEW: BUSINESS RATES
Not only is the North having to give much needed train carriages to the South but small shopkeepers in Leeds and Liverpool are subsidising retailers in London’s Bond Street.
The Chancellor should use next week’s Budget to announce wholesale reform of business rates. They are based on the rental value of properties. Since the last revaluation, rents in London’s West End have gone up 72%. In Greater Manchester they have gone down 47% but rateable values have stayed the same. Not only has this led to the decimation of businesses in many of our out of town shopping streets but it means that London’s businesses are paying far less than they should be.
To add insult to injury the government has postponed the review due next year until 2017. Ministers claim 800,000 of 1.1 million businesses will benefit. Well not many of those will be in the North. Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce says their members are paying business rates set at the height of the market in 2008.
There are other factors driving demands for reform. Retailers are under pressure from internet firms who pay no business rates for their “shop fronts”. Furthermore a committee of MPs is questioning if the £2.3m allocated to the Mary Portas schemes has been spent. Sorry Mary but your high profile trips to our deserted High Streets aren’t the answer to this problem.
The House of Commons Business Select Committee wants the Chancellor to examine whether retailers taxes should be based on sales rather than rateable value.
BUDGET PREVIEW: OTHER MEASURES.
Next Wednesday won’t be an easy day for Ed Balls. On past Budget days he’s been able to taunt the Chancellor with gestures indicating the economy flat lining or falling living standards. This time most of the economic indicators are in George Osborne’s favour. This Budget is his last real chance to set the economic framework against which the General Election will be fought.
The British Chambers of Commerce say the size of the British economy will be back to 2008 levels by the summer and they even foresee interest rates of 0.75% by the end of next year. After five long years of 0.5% flat lining that would be a symbolic sign of real recovery.
So what will the Chancellor do with this improved economic outlook? An easing of the remorseless cuts in public spending looks unlikely. The recession’s legacy of a high deficit remains and the international picture offers many uncertainties.
He should take more steps to deal with youth unemployment, although in truth many measures have been tried.
There’s a bit of a campaign running to merge National Insurance and Income Tax on the basis that they amount to the same thing. But with 16% of people paying 40% Income Tax and National Insurance at around 12%, it would become obvious that a lot of people are paying more than half their income to the state.
And finally don’t forget that the £10.000 annual tax free allowance before paying income tax kicks in next month. The Lib Dems insist this was their policy forced on a reluctant Chancellor. Politically it will help to bind the Coalition together for the final 12 months of this parliament where the Finance Bill implementing this Budget will be part of a pretty thin Queen’s Speech.