Business owners across Lambeth will soon be receiving next year’s rates bills. Most will see a significant increase – some by as much as 45%. Small businesses, already squeezed by rising rates and higher post-Brexit costs will be hit hardest
Since launching our ‘Rates Rise’ campaign last year we’ve been contacted by dozens of business owners. Dominic Lake, the founder of the Canteen restaurant on the Southbank, which employs 150 people says that worry about the future keeps him awake at night.
The government has shaken off criticism, saying it expects businesses will absorb the rise. But while this may be true of profitable multi-nationals, there is strong evidence that lots of small business will be pushed over the edge.
Whether it’s a family-run café in Streatham or a barbers in Brixton, small businesses are the lifeblood of Lambeth. We have a higher rate of SMEs than anywhere else in London. They shape the character and identity of our borough, help create a sense of community and support thousands of jobs for local people.
This is why, together with our Business Improvement Districts we have led a borough-wide campaign to fight the increases. We’ve written to every business in the borough, passed a motion at full council and delivered a petition to the Secretary of State. Together we’ve argued for the Government to sort out transitional arrangements to cushion the blow and in the longer term to commission a review of the effectiveness of business rates as a method of tax.
Sadly, the Government doesn’t seem to be listening. The transitional relief announced in the Autumn Statement – capping rises at 42% next year, down from 45%, and at 32%, from 50% the year after - is pathetically inadequate. To rub salt in the wounds, yesterday we had the news that Amazon is to receive a big tax cut, with the bill for its warehouses in Britain set to fall by more than £140,000. How can it be fair that Amazon pays less while small businesses here have to pay thousands more?
This news followed the revelation last week that that Tory Surrey Council had struck a secret deal with the Government in return for calling off a referendum on increasing council tax. The planned increase was to help relieve pressure on social care budgets. The Government may have bought off Surrey but they’ve done nothing to address the funding crisis they have created. The Tories cut £4.6bn from social care in the last parliament and every day the Prime Minister fails to act it gets worse.
The Government likes to talk the language of fairness but the sweetheart deal for Surrey and the tax breaks for Amazon show there is a growing gap between their words and actions.
Cllr Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth Council