Sudbury/Hadleigh: Case for lower business rates to be put to Government minister

Tim Yeo

Tim Yeo - Credit: PA

Grave concerns about the business rates system, raised by traders in Suffolk, are to be presented to Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles.

South Suffolk MP, Tim Yeo, recently addressed around 40 business owners at a meeting in Sudbury. They wanted to talk to him about the “unfairness” of the current system, which classes out of town supermarkets as ‘warehousing’ and rates them on a different scale to town centre shops.

Mr Yeo said because of the huge increase in internet shopping, other uses would have to be found for some high street premises, and he warned traders they could not preserve traditional town centres in “aspic”.

But he has asked business owners from Hadleigh, Sudbury and the surrounding villages to provide him with data that proves rates have increased significantly during the past decade compared to businesses turnover, and he has pledged to use the information to put a case together to present to Mr Pickles. He has also agreed to hand over a 400-signature petition asking for the rateable value of town centre shops to be lowered.

David Thompson, who runs shops in Sudbury and organised the meeting with Mr Yeo, said: “I pay between four and seven times more per square foot for my business rates than someone like Tesco does and yet we sell similar products. We are simply asking for fairness.”

Hadleigh landlord, Stephen de Lara-Bell, said there had been a 23% fall in business rents since 2007, with some dropping by as much as 40% to make properties affordable. But he added: “We are finding that people still want to open up their own businesses but although we are dropping the rents, the rateable value is still sky high which makes it impossible.”

Some Suffolk traders have appealed against their rates, but many have faced long delays before receiving a response and most have been refused. Mr Yeo urged business-owners to find like-minded people in other market towns, adding: “It is not easy to change the rules in the way you are asking, so it really needs a national campaign behind it. Collective thinking will have a lot more impact. We need evidence that people are being driven out of business because their rates are going up out of proportion with their business turnover.”