Karen Allen

I fought South Shields at the May 2010 General Election for the Conservatives, gaining a 6.4% swing which was a 4% vote increase. The Conservatives polled 7,886 up from 5,207 in 2005. I was born in the North East and grew up in South Shields. I currently live in London and am employed as a Director at Lloyd's Broker Howden International.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Get Rid of Labour Form Filling for Small Business Rate Relief

As reported in the Gazette today


Small business rate relief was introduced in 2005, allowing small firms to claim up to 50 per cent off their business rate bills. However, firms have to fill out paperwork to claim the rate relief, despite the fact that Whitehall’s tax inspectors know precisely which firms are eligible for it.

· According to the most recent figures, 977 firms claimed small business rate relief in South Tyneside.

· The Local Government Association has estimated that some 870,000 firms are eligible for the rebate nationally but less than half have claimed. It is estimated 31% of businesses in South Tyneside who are eligible for the relief have not taken it up.

· By contrast, in Wales, small business rate relief has been automatic since 2007.

After rent and staff, business rates are typically the next biggest cost to local firms. Business experts have warned that 32,300 businesses will fail in 2009. Firms face a hammering this April from the Government thanks to soaring business rates:

· Business rates are to rise by 5.0 per cent in April 2009, despite RPI inflation forecast to be negative this year, due to a statistical quirk in the way business rate rises are calculated.

· Transitional relief from the 2005 business rates revaluation has expired, pushing up bills further for many firms in April 2009.

· The Government has slashed rate relief on empty properties. As the recession bites, firms are unable to rent out vacant property, and have to pay rates in full without any income from rent.

· Firms located within ports across the country face a further blow, as the Government is imposing retrospective hikes on ports firms’ bills, backdated to 2005.

Small shops and businesses across South Tyneside are facing tough times in Labour’s recession. These firms, from our corner shops to local pubs, are the lifeblood of our local community. A responsible government would do more to help them. Yet Gordon Brown is making it as difficult for small firms to claim the tax relief to which they are entitled. He is compounding their misery by finding new ways to drive up business rates by stealth and we can see King St demising even further. The neglect and lack of investment into our town centre is a disgrace.

Conservative proposal would ensure that small firms automatically receive rate relief, cutting their paperwork and tax bills and giving many of them a fighting chance to stay afloat.


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