If fighting the economic downturn is really this government's top priority, one does have to wonder why it has decided to introduce the prospect of higher business rates. Surely business rate should have been cut instead.
Under the cover of the Queen’s speech, a Business Rates Supplements Bill was published contempraneously, giving town halls powers to raise and retain local supplements of up to 2p in the pound above the national business rate.
In politics, like comedy, timing is everything; once again this government has shown itself to be out of step with its audience. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has already spoken out against the measure; the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called the bill a stealth tax; and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it was not of its time for a struggling economy.
David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “As companies are struggling to survive, it cannot be right that they face the possible combination of Local Authorities establishing new Business Rate Supplements, Community Infrastructure Levies, congestion charging and Workplace Parking Levies".
Alex Gourlay, managing director of Boots UK has said: “This is the wrong tax at the wrong time. It will simply lead to increased costs for retailers at a time when the sector’s margins are already being squeezed by a wide range of additional property costs and trading conditions are challenging for the sector."
While the Queen was reading the words: "My Government’s overriding priority is to ensure the stability of the British economy during the global economic downturn," the truth was being slipped through the back door. They say New Labour is dead, but the stealth taxes are still with us.