AN initiative to help struggling city firms by reviewing rates has been welcomed by a city business chief.
Sunderland traders have issued an urgent plea to “Save Our High Street” as astronomical business rates threaten to push them to the wall.
Shopkeepers across the city are calling on Government to overhaul the business rating system and give them a chance to thrive.
The Echo, and parent company Johnston Press, are today launching a nationwide campaign to support them.
The campaign has won the support of Ken Dunbar, chief executive of the BID project, which was set up to attract more business into Sunderland city centre.
Mr Dunbar said: “Anything that helps the smaller independent trader has to be welcomed.
“I think there needs to be a drastic review into our towns and cities, starting with the way they are assessed into the amount of rates they pay.
“There is a lot of competition, not just on the high street, but also from online shopping, so businesses need to be given a fighting chance of survival and every incentive to flourish.
“I would support the need for a review of the whole picture, not just the business rates, but the wider picture which would include things like car parking.
“Anything that helps independent traders has to be welcomed.”
Help change the business rates system
THE Echo is today demanding the Government launches a complete overhaul of the business ratings system, an outdated formula which is crippling our High Streets.
We are joining forces with hundreds of our sister Johnston Press titles, as well as the British Independent Retailers Association, to demand business rates are frozen immediately and an urgent review conducted.
Today we are asking you, the reader, to sign our online petition which urges the Government to think again about an unfair tax which has been increased by nearly £700millon in the past three years, leaving traders with the highest property tax bills in Europe.
Westminster’s Business Innovation and Rates Committee has looked at the issue of business rates and reported its findings in March, describing the business rates system as “not fit for purpose” and in need of reform.
The committee called for a wholesale review, including whether taxes should be based on sales rather than the rateable value of a property; whether retail needs its own system of business taxation; and how frequently revaluations should take place.
In the interim, the committee called for a six-month business rates amnesty for businesses occupying empty properties.
The Government was due to carry out a revaluation in 2015, but this has been put back to 2017 and beyond.
It has made no serious or firm commitment to a fundamental review of this damaging tax.
Today, The Echo is calling for readers to get behind our Shop Local campaign, which calls upon the Government to do the right thing for our small, independent traders.
Ashley Highfield, CEO of Johnston Press, said: “Supporting communities – and the small businesses within them – is at the heart of what we do.
“We pride ourselves on the long-standing relationships we have in so many cities, towns, villages and hamlets where we are the trusted provider of local news and information services.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of their communities and this campaign is aimed at helping them to survive in an ever more challenging environment.”
•To support our campaign, sign the petition and share with friends and family to spread the word.