Islington business bosses take 12,600-strong petition to treasury demanding: Stop rates rises
PUBLISHED: 12:21 01 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:04 01 March 2017
Traders marched on Whitehall this morning to deliver a 12,658-strong petition calling for the government to halt devastating 45 per cent increases in rateable values.
Businesses across Islington face the third highest hike in the country and many will be forced to close or move out of the area due to rent hikes of between £10,000 and £100,000.
The rise has come about because the government has reassessed the rateable values of commercial premises – the figures used to determine how much a company pays in business rates.
The Gazette revealed in October that Islington firms faced the third-steepest increase in the country. After the announcement, the chamber of commerce and Angel Business Improvement District decided to act, and, backed by the council, they launched a petition.
It calls on the government to freeze the rise until after Britain leaves the EU, as well as asking the treasury to extend “transitional reliefs” so the rise comes in gradually. And yesterday (Wed) it was handed to officials in Westminster ahead of next week’s budget announcement by chancellor Philip Hammond.
Nic Sharpe, who runs St John’s Tavern in Junction Road, Archway, is facing a rates rise of more than £20,000 – from £26,000 to £48,000.
“I work really hard and do things well,” he told the Gazette. “I pay my way, follow laws. The building was a sh*t hole when I came here 18 years ago. Now it’s one of the leading architectural buildings in the area.
“All you do is try to do things well and you get penalised. It’s really demoralising. It makes you think: ‘What’s the point of all this?’
“They say rates are based on the property value, but I don’t own the property. That seems to be detached. If it goes on turnover at least it’s rational. But when it’s to do with the property market it seems arbitrary.
“My rent has gone up and I’ve worked really hard to offset the difference. Now this comes along. It’s not sustainable.”
Nic added that the government should be behind the inventive food and drink boom taking place in London, not “creaming off the top”.
“You need to encourage the people that do well. It just makes me want to walk away and say: ‘F*** it – here’s the keys. You do it, then.’
“Everything is going up and I can’t support it all. I employ 30 people – it’s a high-cost business. Last year we didn’t make a profit. We’ve had to invest to get us where we are.”
Despite the dire situation, Nic is confident the government will listen to the traders.
“I never panic until I have to,” he continued. “If the government penalise the people that are working and investing and creating things, they are going to be f****d. Hopefully they go back to the drawing board.
“Theresa May said herself she wanted to support the ones that were working and creating. She’s completely shot herself in the foot. I don’t understand how it’s happened.”
David Twydell, chair of the Chapel Market Traders group, also headed down to Whitehall on behalf of the BID.
“I’m representing the small man,” he said. “The streets are going to be full of coffee shops and estate agents soon and it will have a knock-on effect for the market, even though rates don’t affect us.
“People coming to buy a house aren’t going to come to the market, but someone going to get their boots re-heeled will.
“There must be some sort of compromise. As it is it’s another nail in the coffin for the shops around the market – pie and mash shop, the DIY shop, the pet shop. The small businessman always gets a bum deal.”
Town hall economy boss, Cllr Asima Shaikh
“The scale of this rise in business rateable values could have a destructive effect on our high streets.
“A big increase could force small and medium businesses to close or move – damaging the diverse and independent nature of our business communities.
“We urge the treasury to stop these plans and support our shops and services in these turbulent times ahead.”
Hak Huseyin, co-vice chair of the chamber of commerce
“Who can justify these rises in any other part of business?
“It’s unheard of and simply unmanageable. We understand that rises happen; we can accept an increase in line with inflation, but to inflate the rates is unacceptable.
“Empty shops are not good for employment, not good for the community, and unwelcome to the high street.
“Proceeding with the proposed rises would have a devastating impact on our high streets.”
Chief exec of the Angel BID Christine Lovett
“Our high streets are the lifeblood of our communities; they are real places where people gather, eat, drink, socialise and escape isolation; they are also places where fledgling businesses cut their teeth and grow.
“These small businesses are the biggest employers of local people. As it is, our vibrant high streets are threatened by online shopping, high rents, the uncertainty of Brexit, and the government’s huge business rate rises could be the final straw for our smaller independents, which will close.”
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