Posted: Fri 17th Feb 2017
A growing number of entrepreneurs, business experts and employers' groups are joining in a call against upcoming changes to business rates.
In the first re-valuation of rates for seven years, it has been claimed that up to 500,000 shops, cafes, restaurants, hospitals and schools will see their bills rise by as much as 300%.
Both winners and losers will be created with some seeing bills go down but in areas where property prices have increased such as central London and other popular tourist areas, businesses, including independent and small firms, face a sharp increase.
Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: "There is a real issue here which will have a huge impact on small businesses at a time when they are already dealing with increased bureaucracy, costs and Brexit uncertainty.
"While the smallest will be somewhat protected, this will undoubtedly be the last straw for some and bad news for our beleaguered high streets."
Other groups have criticised ministers. Organisations including the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores have signed a letter in which they describe as "outrageous" a clause which could prevent businesses appealing against a rate rise, even if they can prove the valuation is wrong.
The government wants the right to reject appeals against an incorrect rise that is seen to be within the bounds of "reasonable professional judgement" or margin of error. The maximum margin of error has been not revealed but some experts say it could be as high as 15%. The groups called this "illegal".
But a government spokesperson said the "claims are simply false" and speaking on the BBC's Today programme Treasury minister David Gauke commented: "They're paying more because their rent has gone up, because they are in sectors that are flourishing or parts of the country that are flourishing.
"It is right that when it comes to delivering business rates that we have an up to date register [of values]".
Entrepreneur Mary Portas has also joined the protests. Writing in the Telegraph, she called on Theresa May to "stop this madness".
"In 2011 I was commissioned by the government to look at how we could save our high streets", she said. "Six years on and we were really making progress. So it's strange to watch our leaders preparing to impose a new business rates revaluation that will cripple high street shops.
"The tax bill, which will hit retailers from April, will be the single biggest blow to independent shops since the financial crisis. I would estimate that at least a third of them will die off."
What do you think about business rates? Do you face an increase or will your bill be reduced? Comment below.