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Time to act on business rates, Norfolk summit hears

19:11 15 January 2014

Tribal Riders. Photo: Bill Smith

Tribal Riders. Photo: Bill Smith

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The financial strain caused by high business rates has been underscored by the plight of two Norfolk companies at a special summit investigating ways of easing the controversial tax.

During a business rates summit held at County Hall yesterday, Norwich-based extreme sports shop Tribal Riders described the tax “as the chain around our neck” that is hampering their ambitions to invest and hire new staff.

But when they approached the valuation office agency for a rates review, they were told it may take up two years before they receive a response.

Meanwhile, King’s Lynn-based nursery Tumble Tots described how its business rates soared when it was reclassified from a workshop to a nursery, despite bigger businesses in the Horsley’s Field Estate paying significantly less.

It came as councillors announced that they would write to high streets minister and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis to push for a central government review of business rates to help struggling firms.

Matthew Jeffery, owner of the Tribal Riders on Westlegate Street, said: “If business rates keep increasing then it will hold us back. We have a part-time worker that we are happy to do full-time hours so that we are free to do more development of the business, but we can’t.”

Kelly Rye, owner of Tumble Tots, said: “Our business rates went up in 2011, but they are not comparable to other businesses or nurseries.”

In an open forum at the meeting, David Dukes, economic development manager for Norfolk County Council, called for a need to redress the balance between high street retailers paying business rates, and some Internet businesses escaping the tax.

But it was claimed that some failing firms are blaming business rates for their demise when poor financial management is the real cause, according to a special report commissioned by Norfolk county councillors.

Commenting in the report, Andrew Wilson, head of enterprise services at NWES said: “As a generalisation, the issues causing problems for the business and in paying rates is more to do with poor business management, strategy or planning. The business will rarely admit its business rates.”

240,000 business rates appeals were dealt with nationally last year, with a 168,000 currently outstanding.

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