East Anglia: Minister Bob Neill lifts threat of backdated rates bills for port businesses

GOVERNMENT minister Bob Neill has delivered good news for businesses operating from the region’s ports during a visit to Ipswich.

The local government minister visited the town’s Old Custom House to announce a freeze on backdated business rates bills for port-based businesses.

Mr Neill said that the Government’s work to freeze the bills for port businesses had already helped them continue to grow, and that they could now move forward confidently without the worry of business rate bills.

He said: “I said before the general election that we would remove the threat of backdated business rates. We froze the threat when we came into power. Now we have changed the regulations to mean that the threat has been lifted.”

Until 2009, in each of the 55 statutory ports in England and Wales, one combined business rate bill was paid by each port operator on behalf of all the firms within it.

Following a review the Valuation Office Agency decided that each firm must each pay an individual business rate bill, declaring them all “separate occupations”.

This meant that many port-based companies faced business rates bills backdated to April 1, 2005, cumulatively reaching into the millions.

Most Read

Many businesses campaigned against the demands as they were seriously damaging the industry’s competitive advantage.

Mr Neill added: “For too long this unfair backdated port tax took its toll the port industry, with unexpected million pound bills damaging the businesses at the foundation of this country’s import and export infrastructure.”

The minister also gave his backing to Suffolk County Council’s moves to transfer many of its operations, including libraries and highways management, to outside operators such as private companies or not-for-profit businesses.

Mr Neill, whose department is responsible for local authorities, said: “Suffolk has been doing just the kind of things we have been looking for over the last year or so.

“Mark Bee (council leader) has ensured that it consults with the people before changes are made and it is an authority that is showing the way forward for other councils.”