Campaign to reform Sheffield business rates to be launched, as government are criticised for 'badly damaging' high streets

Sheffield Council is launching a campaign calling to reform business rates, saying the government has 'badly damaged' high streets and local retailers.

Saturday, 1st February 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 4:37 pm

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, attacked the government's handling of rates in a motion put forward for full council.

In it he said: "The country's high streets, neighbourhood retailers and community centres have been badly damaged over the last decade. A big part of this decline has been caused by unfair rates and a system of taxation which appears to support online business giants while punishing conventional retailers."

Councils do not have any control over rates but can offer some support in special circumstances.

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Fargate, Sheffield.

Sheffield has more than 19,000 businesses and the council supports 9,300 through some kind of rate relief.

Its small business rate relief is worth around £17 million to local traders and more than £26 million is awarded through other types of rate relief.

Coun Iqbal said the valuation office - which deals with applications for relief - was ‘woefully’ underfunded meaning depsite their best efforts valuations are taking between 12 and 18 months, what he called a "long and often damaging delay for businesses".

He added: "Government policy over the last decade has badly let down not only our high streets and neighbourhood retailers, but our key industries and business sectors, with an industrial strategy that is not fit for purpose, and which cherry-picks support for some industries over others – for instance, the government had no problem bailing out Flybe but were not prepared to support Liberty Steel."

The council is now launching a campaign with the chamber of commerce and organisations across the business community to call on government to make the system fairer.

The issue recently came under the spotlight after a number of shops raised concerns about high rates including those on Chapel Walk - which suffered a significant loss in trade due to scaffolding that is finally due to be taken down this year.

It will be discussed at during February's full council meeting, which starts at 2pm on Wednesday, February 5.