Speaking on BBC Radio Shropshire this morning Shropshire Council’s leader partially backtracked on threats to remove discretionary business rate relief from charities contained in a recent letter. But he still wants to charge some charities. He said current media and councillor coverage of this is “scaremongering”. And, in one of the doublethink moments that some politicians excel in, he said that Shropshire Council had a “no blame” culture but “words would be had” with the officer who had sent the offending letter. So that’s no blame for anyone then.
We have more from the Directorate of Very Bad News at Shropshire Council. The council is planning to cancel all discretionary business rate relief for charities, sports clubs, youth clubs and a lot of other social enterprises across the county. In Ludlow, and voluntary and social enterprises could face an annual bill of more than £20,000 from next April.
This is nothing other than a tax on our volunteer community. It is a disgusting raid on the funding of good causes.
After effective negotiations and some successful appeals, the overall business rates bill for Ludlow has gone down. The town had been facing above average increases after the revaluation of properties last year. It is still facing above average increases but more than seventy businesses have had their rates bills reduced since the increases were announced. One in nine Ludlow businesses will see a reduction in rateable value and the changes have moved three local businesses out of the business rate regime altogether. The reduction in rateable values for those businesses that pay rates under the current rules amounts to £120,000. That’s a 10.4% reduction and good news for local companies and traders.
This was a measly and mean budget for small businesses. For towns like Ludlow, there is no cheer at all from the Budget statement today.
In recent days, there were growing hopes the Chancellor would do act to ease the rates burden on business, especially the retail sector. Philip Hammond made three announcements on business rates and none of them pass muster.
Today’s budget will lead to many local independent businesses going to the wall. I really fear we are set to lose several of the businesses that attract people to Ludlow’s town centre.
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.