London businesses want new Mayor to take fresh look at business rates

Small businesses in London have called on new Mayor Sadiq Khan to prioritise the reform of business rates over the next three months.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) surveyed its members just days after Khan had won the London Mayoral election, asking what they would like to see him focus on during his first 100 days in the post.

Business rates were listed as the top concern, with more than a fifth (21%) calling for Khan to provide greater clarity on how the rates will be reformed in the capital.

London’s business rates are already due to re-evaluated in 2017 and many have called for a fundamental reform of how the antiquated rates system is calculated. Rates are currently based on the estimated value of a company’s physical premises in terms of annual rent. The fact that valuations are only carried out every five years means they are frequently out of step with actual property values.

Many critics of business rates feel that the system penalises ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses with physical premises, as they are a form of property tax levied on non-domestic properties. This could give more of an advantage to e-commerce traders, particularly in certain areas of the retail sector, where many shops are already struggling to avoid insolvency and liquidation.

London businesses were also asked what the Mayor’s priorities should be over the next four years. The reform of business rates again topped the poll, with well over a third (37%) saying the tax should be Mr Khan’s top focus.

Improving the affordability and availability of commercial space came second (34%) and improving the availability and affordability of housing was the third most expressed concern (32%).

29% thought the new Mayor should focus on lowering the cost of doing business in the capital and 28% wanted him to concentrate on reducing traffic congestion for both private and public transport.

Other concerns listed included the provision of fit-for-purpose broadband for every small business in London and investment in skills within the London workforce.

By Phil Smith

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