THE battle to rescue small business in York from crippling hikes in business rates which threaten their existence is to be taken to the Government.
Kersten England, City of York Council’s chief executive, is to write to Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and his counterparts within other political parties to press the case for reform of a system which has left some traders seeing the price they must pay double, or even treble.
The move comes after The Press revealed the extent of the financial strain facing small independent businesses throughout the city, which has led to fears pubs, shops and other outlets could be forced to close.
A motion tabled by council leader Andrew Waller, who branded the situation “unreasonable”, has called for “fundamental reform” of business rates to introduce a “fairer system”. The motion, agreed at a full meeting of the authority, also suggests that the council should keep a portion of the money collected so it can be pumped back into the local economy.
“Traders such as those in the Micklegate area, who I have spoken to, feel they are being unfairly penalised because they are small businesses, and that the system seems to favour large retailers,” said Coun Waller.
“As a council, we want to do something about that and raise their concerns with the people who are in a position to make decisions, so we hope what we have to say will be listened to.
“One property in Micklegate has seen an increase of more than 300 per cent in rateable value between 2005 and 2010, and many businesses have received an additional burden at a time when they are in a precarious position.
“It has reached a point where it is clear the system is not working. Retaining jobs and creating new ones is paramount and, with a new Government coming in, this is the perfect time to influence policy.”
The council’s letter will be sent, despite some councillors saying further analysis of potential business rate reforms should first be carried out to make sure it would not leave traders struggling even further.
Among those worst-hit by the business rate hike are York’s pubs.
The Castle Howard Ox in The Groves, has seen a leap from £8,700 to £29,650 – meaning a possible annual payment of £12,000.
Landlady Paula Allen said: “I’m very glad to see the council taking this up and I just hope and pray it has an effect.
”It’s good to know there are people backing us, because when we first found out about this increase, we felt very alone and didn’t really know what to do.”