CAMPAIGN: Why the business rates system needs to change

Shoppers on Cambridge Street, Harrogate.
Shoppers on Cambridge Street, Harrogate.

As the Harrogate Advertiser begins its call for the government to rethink the business ratings system, representatives from Harrogate, Knaresborough, and Nidderdale have their say on why a change is urgently needed.

President of Harrogate Chamber of Trade Stuart Pearson said: “It is important the government look again and more importantly that they encourage by reductions in rates for smaller businesses in secondary positions.

“The ratings system is very old fashioned. My focus would be a simple change to give rent free to secondary position small retailers.

“All the small retailers in towns should have a big reduction in rates and a six month rate-free period if they take over an empty shop. That would make a big difference.

“We just need to help them, because otherwise we are just going to have big shops and nothing else, and then the draw to Harrogate will be greatly diminished.”

Mayor of Knaresborough Tony Handley added: “I haven’t got personal experience of how bad the situation is, but as a principle it is obviously a fixed overhead and I think looking again at the ratings system is an essential element of keeping the high street vibrant.”

Currently business ratings mean shops in Britain are suffering under the highest property tax in Europe which has risen by almost £700m in the last three years.

Nidderdale Chamber of Trade chair Keith Tordoff said: “I don’t definitely know the answer, but bills are far too high and excessive and anything to encourage independent, smaller businesses is to be welcomed.

“Rates should be revisited and the system should be overhauled. The government needs to look at a number of factors - they should have an idea of business turnover, the size of the premises, and the area the business is in and take that into account as well.

“That is the biggest thing - they aren’t listening to the grass roots, so there is a disparity.”