Cecil Court, London WC2N

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Cecil Court 1894

 

Cecil Court Rates Battle Continues:

Since Simon Callow got the ball rolling with his excellent article we have received strong and active support from Mark Field, MP for Westminster, and from Brian Connell, Cabinet Member for Communities and Economic Development on Westminster Council. We are also delighted to have received the full backing of our landlord, Lord Salisbury. I know that Mark has a number of plans to take things further in Parliament, but at this stage I’ll have to say watch this space. We are looking for the support of individuals and similar small organizations. Please continue to write to Mark Field – the more support he receives, the stronger his case.

Rates have become a vital (if eye-wateringly dull) topic due to the abrupt scrapping of transitional rate relief, which for some time effectively masked an underlying policy of increasing business rates. We had small annual increases of between 5-15% which we absorbed without looking far enough ahead, but when relief ended the rates bills for many businesses all but doubled. We’re not asking for a return to transitional relief and we’re not making a special case for bookshops. We’re asking for a general lowering of the National Non-Domestic Rate Multiplier, which is set by central government (not the council) and used to calculate business rates bills. When introduced in 1990/91 it was only 0.348, and in now set at 0.485, a difference of 30% without taking any form of relief into consideration - and incidentally, there are precedents for the NNDR going down as well as up. We also seek meaningful rate relief for small businesses (ground floor shops in central London don’t fall far below the £21500 rateable value threshold - if they do so at all - so as relief is calculated incrementally it tends to be paltry, even when available; the ‘up to 50%’ relief generally cited by government only applies to businesses with an rateable value of £5000 or less, which is hardly anyone). Everyone’s aware that there are serious holes in the nation’s finances at the moment, but if too great a proportion of the burden of filling them is put on the backs of small businesses - in the teeth of the worst recession since 1945 - our high streets are going to lose even more of their diversity than they have already.