Labour leader Ed Miliband’s speech to his party conference has provoked a mixed reaction from businesses and trade bodies.
ACS has welcomed his commitment to reduce the burden of business rates on local shops if the party were to be elected in 2015.
Miliband claimed his first act in Government would be to reverse a hike in small business rates due in April 2015 and to freeze the levy the following year.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Reducing business rates for smaller shops on high streets and in neighbourhoods would benefit tens of thousands of convenience stores. We will work with opposition and the Government to make proposals for tackling the rates burden workable.
“Immediate action is vital, but it must be accompanied by a commitment to a fundamental review of the business rates system.”
Labour’s decision to hold business rates at 2014 levels for two years would affect properties and commercial premises with an annual rental value of £50,000 or less.
Alex Jackman, head of policy at the Forum of Private Business, also welcomed the pledge saying: “This policy will be welcome help for our members. In a recent poll 94% felt property taxation was too high. It is not ideal that this freeze would be funded from a reversal of a corporation tax reduction, but since the small firms’ rate was to remain the same, this tax change should benefit small businesses.”
However, John Webber, head of rating at Colliers International, described the proposal to freeze business rates as a “sticking plaster rather than a cure”.
He said: “While any move to make things easier and more affordable would be welcomed by the high street and businesses across the UK, what they really need is a fundamental review of the business rates system.
“By granting relief across the whole country Labour, would in effect, be helping business in more prosperous areas – like London and the south east – that don’t necessarily need the help; at the expense of those that do. What will make the greatest difference to ailing high streets and business is an immediate revaluation, rather than the sticking plaster that labour is offering.”