Plea to ease burden of business rates

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Start-up sweet seller Damian Maxfield pays £14,500-a-year in business rates - a huge burden for a new enterprise.

The businessman launched the World Wide Candy Company on Ecclesall Road in September and must sell a staggering £250 worth of sweets every day to cover rent, rates and all his bills before he can pay himself a penny.

Damian Maxfield of Worldwide Candy Company on Ecclesall Road.

Damian Maxfield of Worldwide Candy Company on Ecclesall Road.

Damian is a supporter of The Star’s campaign for a complete overhaul of the system, an outdated forumal which is crippling our High Streets and stifling independent retailers.

His shop sells sweets unavailable in the UK including Japanese KitKats in seven flavours such as wasbi and green tea.

“I think the rates are far too high - we get nothing in return. Look at the street and pavements, the council doesn’t seem to want to help any businesses on here.

“If rates were lower I could employ someone.”

Labour leader Ed Milliband

Labour leader Ed Milliband

Baran Balaman owns a former restaurant which he is converting into a cafe on West Street and is furious at still having to pay full rates.

“I feel we are being ripped off by the Government. I am still paying the full amount even though it isn’t open as a business. At the moment there is no business and it’s not earning money?

“They should at least give us time. It has been about six months now - nearly six months paying rates on an empty, refurbished property.”

John Darwin has run Sheffield Photographic Centre on Ecclesall Road for 30 years.

“People used to say this was the Bond Street of Sheffield but today it’s mainly charity shops, betting shops and cafes. And why?

“Business rates are too high and too confusing and there’s no way to tell whether they are value for money.”

The Star’s petition calls for a freeze on rates until after a review and the launch of a better system, to promote unique local traders.

We would like to see rate amnesties to promote the take-up of empty units and business rates linked to alternative measures such as turnover rather than an outdated definition of property value and what constitutes prime retail space.

The Government was due to carry out a revaluation of property values in 2015, but it has been put back to 2017 at the earliest.

Paul Widdowson, 41, joint owner of Mr Pickles Yorkshire Food Emporium, said: “They should give new businesses a year of free rates to encourage start-ups.”

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Labour Party leader Ed Miliband believes small firms need help with the soaring costs.

Speaking exlusively in support of The Star’s campaign, the Doncaster North MP said: “I think it is right to ease the burden of business rates.

“Businesses, particularly small firms, need help and I have repeatedly called on the government to do more to support them.

“Rather than simply capping the increase in business rates, as David Cameron has done, I would like to see a cut in business rates in 2015 followed by a freeze in 2016 – paid for by not going ahead with the Government’s additional Corporation Tax cut for the largest firms.

“This would benefit millions of small businesses.

“If we are to build prosperity for the long term, we must give help to the many businesses which will create most of the jobs and the wealth of the future – not just a few at the top.”

The British Property Federation says a business rates cut is top of its wishlist for the Autumn Statement - when the Chancellor announces new policies.

It also wants to see more the reinstatement of a six-month empty rates relief for all properties and frequent revaluations to reflect actual rental values.