Archive for January, 2010

Brighton & Hove’s small businesses face triple tax whammy

Small businesses have taken a real hit recently due to the effects of the recession – difficulties in obtaining credit, less demand for goods and services etc. I think that in Brighton & Hove, by and large, they have weathered this storm very well so far but I do have some real concerns for the coming months.

The main reason for this is that a whole catalogue of factors are coming together to put huge pressure on our local firms. Firstly, VAT went back up to 17.5% on 1st January, pushing the price of goods back up in the shops. Secondly, employer and employee National Insurance contributions are both set to increase by 1% next year which will put huge pressure on local employers and is hardly likely to encourage job creation (I am pleased that David Cameron has indicated that if he wins the general election he will look to scrap at least part of this rise).

But perhaps most worrying of all is the Government’s business rate revaluation, due to come in force from April this year. Nearly 60% of our business ratepayers are set to have an increased bill and around 43% are due to be capped at 5% of 12.5% because their increases are so high. Government publicity has made significant noises about 60% of businesses nationwide experiencing decreases in rates but the opposite is true here in Brighton & Hove. The transitional scheme has been taken up by around 7% of our ratepayers but has merely created a potential time bomb, as businesses will be faced with paying back what they deferred last year, PLUS up to 12.5% increased rates.

I have recently written to the Government Minister – John Denham – on this matter asking him to give areas such as Brighton & Hove some extra support to get the City’s small businesses through this difficult period. We recently put forward a proposal as part of the Sustainable Communities Act which would give Council’s greater flexibility than we have now to offer rate relief to particular businesses and hopefully they will act on this.

A further factor which is adding to the pressure on our smaller independent retailers is the impact that the big supermarket chains are having. They are moving into the City in increasing numbers and under current planning regulations, Councils are powerless to do anything about it.

In the next few weeks I will be looking to build upon the Business Lifebelt Scheme which the Council launched last year which offers practical assistance to a range of businesses and sectors in the city, aiming to help them survive the economic downturn.

Small businesses are crucial to the continued prosperity and well-being of the whole City and I am continuing to look into any ways in which we can help them.


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