Yesterday, the communities and local government minister, Sajid Javid, made a Commons statement on business rates. He defended the changes in rateable values being introduced on 1 April. These rises have led to protests across the country, including here in Ludlow. Our town has featured in the national media several times in recent weeks.
The government must grasp the opportunity to address the “squeeze in the middle”. This squeeeze threatens the future of independent shops and pubs, here in Ludlow and across the country.
The government is on the back foot. Just days ago, Sajid Javid, said businesses were ‘scaremongering’. Now he says that an announcement will be made in the budget on 8 March. But he gives no details.
Mr Javid should take care how he targets any additional relief. Many retailers are facing a squeeze in the middle. The big supermarkets have already got a good settlement out of the government. The smallest shops will pay no rates at all.
It’s the pubs and mid-sized independent shops that are being hit hardest. Here in Ludlow, many are facing business rate rises of up to 150% over five years.
Mr Javid should target his additional relief measures at independent shops and pubs.
Too many town centres across the nation are dominated by empty or charity shops.
I fear this will happen in Ludlow. The business rates rise will inevitably lead to the closure of independent shops that make our high street unique.
The budget on 8 March is an opportunity for the government to promote town centres after years of policies that have damaged them. I hope that Sajid Javid will rise to the occasion.