Business rates cut - but small firms say entire tax should go

Norwich Lanes Credit: Denise Bradley

Norwich Lanes Credit: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

Extortionate business rates have been a thorn in the side of East Anglia's high street retailers for some time - an ailment which has eventually brought many companies to their knees.

And in the budget chancellor Philip Hammond announced he would be cutting the rates by a third for two years for shops, pubs, restaurants and cafés with rateable values of £51,000 and under.

He also revealed a £650m Future High Streets Fund co-funded by the government to help councils improve high streets.

But retailers have said the measures fall short of real change and create further uncertainty for the future.

Southwold hit the headlines last year when rates rocketed by an average of 177pc.

Chapmans Gifts and Cards have seen their business rates increase by 400pc in the past couple of years, and co-owner Pete Hart said: 'It's all well and good decreasing rates by a third, but a third of 400pc is still a lot to pay.

'I think we need an overhaul of business rates as a whole. It's an archaic idea to tax businesses on their properties, we should be taxed on turnover or profit.'

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On the Future High Streets fund, he added: 'Anything to support the high street is welcome, but I doubt places like Southwold will see any of it. Until we see the details we can't be sure of the impact it will have.'

The idea that the chancellor's budget will do little for Norfolk's SMEs was reflected by the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.

Nova Fairbank, head of policy, governance and public affairs for the chamber, said: 'While the chancellor announced that the era of austerity was coming to an end, overall schemes and incentives specific to our region, in comparison to other UK areas, were in short supply.

'There is still no indication of when the broken business rates system will be overhauled and no specific funding to support full mobile coverage along our key transport corridors, which would be a crucial step to improving digital connectivity and productivity for businesses.

'We need the fundamentals fixing, such as the long overdue dualling of the A47 and faster, more reliable rail, mobile and broadband to enable our innovative and dynamic business community to reach new heights and deliver economic growth and jobs for Norfolk.'