Rate U-turn is ‘not enough’ to rescue tradersBy Hugh Fort
April 20, 2009
Traders in Wokingham town centre say a Government U-turn on business rates increase is not good enough.
Chancellor Alistair Darling announced the rates would go up by two per cent this year and another three per cent over the next two years, a change from the original proposed hike of five per cent from April 1.
But traders in the town centre say small businesses across the area are falling like flies and a freeze on prices is what they need.
Mr Darling called the move a “real and genuine help for businesses in this country” but Wokingham MP John Redwood called it a “spin”.
He said: “The Government is still putting the rates up by five per cent, they are just stalling it.
“It is spin.
“I have made representations about business rates before.
“The Government is forever reminding us inflation is at zero per cent, well they shouldn’t have been so greedy in the past.
“This Government has not tried to live within its means.
“The increase is over the top and they should have controlled their spending better.”
Mr Darling has also ruled out a freeze on rates, saying it would cost the Government around £1 billion.
The Government has received little sympathy from the traders in Wokingham.
John Wood, owner of John Wood Sports in Market Place, said: “Why are they putting it up at all?
“The Government has thousands of paper shufflers working for it, there’s been no suggestion of the Government cutting staff costs.
“We don’t get anything for our business rates so why do they need to put them up?”
Neil Ashford, owner of The Flower Corner in Broad Street, added: “Any increase in business costs at all is unwelcome in today’s trading climate, however I am encouraged to hear that the original per cent increase has been reduced somewhat.”
Andy Rogers, landlord at The Redan in Peach Street said: “Businesses are falling like flies and the Government now sticks up the business rates.
“If any of them had any sense they’d put a freeze on it.
“The rates in Wokingham are extortionate already and not properly calculated, as businesses closer to the town centre than us pay lower rates.
“It makes no sense to hike up the rates at a time where everyone is struggling.
“What are they on? I’m not sure how they can make that decision.”