Our fear is that Ludlow independent shops will fold, says my letter in today’s Times

The Times has run a series of articles highlighting the harm that rises in rateable values and business rates will cause rural businesses. Yesterday, the newspaper had a first page headline: “Punitive business rates threaten rural way of life.” I am sure there were a lot of responses and four of us were lucky enough to have our letters published in today’s edition.

My letter, as you might expect, concentrated on the impact on business rates hikes in Ludlow. I said “Our fear is that these independent shops will fold and will be replaced by the chain retailers”:

“Our fear is that these independent shops will fold and will be replaced by the chain retailers you can find in any high street anywhere. If that happens, we’ll get fewer visitors and then even the chain stores will struggle. With plans for an out of town superstore already threatening our high street trade, the steep rise in business rates could be the death knell for a town centre people love to work and shop in.”

The letter was, as every letter writer expects, edited by The Times. The published text is in the image below.

This is not a false hue and cry. This is not driven by the instinctive desire to pay lower taxes. We are arguing for the future of our town centre.

Ludlow Chamber of Commerce met Ludlow MP Philip Dunne on Friday. He has promised to investigate the increase in business tax. We don’t just need an investigation, we need an urgent change to the business rate regime before it kills a lot of our local businesses.

Full text of my letter to The Times

You highlight the threat to rural businesses posed by hikes in business rates (Punitive business rates threaten rural way of life, Jan 23). Here in Ludlow, a thriving rural market town in the south of Shropshire, many of our retail businesses are threatened by rises well above national averages.

The rateable values of retail premises in our town are set to soar by 39% on 1 April, way above the national increase of 5% and even higher than the 27% increase in London.

Government plans for small business rate relief will help. Around 150 of our 250 retailers will not pay rates at all because they have a rateable value of less than £12,000. But the other 100 retail businesses occupying larger premises are facing business rate rises averaging 27% over the next five years. Fifty retailers will see rates increases of between 50% and 150%.

National retailers in big urban centres may be able to weather this storm. Ludlow is a small town of 11,000 people and is heavily reliant on tourists. Four in five of our shops are run by independent businesses.

Our fear is that many of our independent shops will fold and they will be replaced by the chain retailers you can find in any high street anywhere. If that happens, we’ll get fewer visitors. Then even the chain stores will struggle. With plans for an out of town superstore already threatening our high street trade, the steep rise in business rates could be the death knell for a nearly unique town centre that people love to shop in.

Andy Boddington

Update 24 January 2017

Today, the Shropshire Star also covers threat of business rate increases to local businesses:

3 thoughts on “Our fear is that Ludlow independent shops will fold, says my letter in today’s Times

  1. Greedy landlords imposing punitive commercial leases that only with the backing of a corporation would it make sense to undertake the risk placed on prospective tenants. Rates are an important issue but have not been responsible for the blanding of the UK high street as much as the interests of landlords.

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