BUSINESS RATES MUST BE SCRAPPED.
Or City and Town centres will be absolutely decimated and all the jobs involved will be lost.
I don’t know why politicians think they can just go on imposing more and more unwarranted taxes on business and ignore their effect on both the jobs and business markets.
The combination of Covid and the growth in internet sales have rendered high street businesses completely unprofitable.If they are to be expected to pay archaic business rates based on completely unrealistic valuations that bear no semblance to present day trading conditions, they will close. It really is that simple. As I write this another 4700 high streets jobs are under threat today as another two high street chains announce they are going into administration.
It not just the retail businesses that face widespread closures, all the associated business like cafes, restaurants, pubs, bakers, hairdressers are all directly affected as well, as these businesses are all heavily reliant on footfall and the failure of the flagship businesses guarantees that footfall disappears for everyone else as well.
Take Paisley, where I live. It used to have a bustling High Street, packed full of shops. Then along came Braehead and Silverburn, huge shopping centres with equally huge free parking areas. What was the local Labour Council response? They appointed a Roads Convener who didn’t drive and who hated cars, who introduced double yellow lines across the entire town and wiped out business after business. It’s quite hard to sell washing machines or fridges if you can’t pull up your car to pick them up, bye,bye Paisley Electrics as but one example.
Prior to all this in the 60’s the Labour Council had awarded planning permission for a new shopping centre in the centre of the town which involved building over the river and erecting an East German style monstrosity that replaced buildings of considerable architectural merit. People were astonished at this decision. How was this possible? Did I mention the main investor in the East German style Centre was the Miners Pension Fund?
So while cities and towns all over the World were investing in creating waterfront, attractive shopping and leisure attractions, the Paisley Labour Party decided to make the river disappear in the centre of the town.
While all this destruction was going ahead, business rates for the survivors were being increased all the time. The opportunity to enhance the centre of the town was lost.
Here we are many decades later and the end game is sight. Unless rates are removed then the centre of my town and many others will remain a disaster. Many, many more jobs and businesses will disappear.
Now I understand that the market has changed and it’s not ever going to go back to what it was like before the internet, but there is a complete failure of politicians to understand that the surviving business in these town and city centres need help, not stupid taxes. Additional taxes puts them out of business and ends up with all their employees losing their jobs. One more unrealistic tax that is being paid by an ever declining number of businesses as more businesses go to the wall. More empty shops beget more empty shops.
Politicians have been scared of doing anything, they are hiding the truth from the public. I know lots of business owners in Paisley. I know many of them had big arrears in business rates before Covid. The reason? To pay them would be to kill their business. It’s not evasion, it’s survival.
The solution is AGR, introduce AGR and replace business rates, Vat and a host of other business destroying taxes and you will see new life in the High Street as suddenly it makes economic sense to use the properties rather than leaving them empty. Jobs will be created and life and energy will be recreated instead of stagnation.
We have the powers to do much of this already, we should not hesitate. You can have as many new business rate revaluations as you like, it will make no difference, businesses, more and more everyday, cannot afford to pay them.
Step up Holyrood, or suffer the pain of a huge level of business failures and soaring unemployment. There is no time left to delay. You need to save them while some are still there. If they all close there will be gone forever. That is the real choice.
I am, as always
Yours for Scotland.
Free subscriptions for this blog are available on the Home and Blog pages of this site. You will be most welcome