Business rate hikes threaten to destroy some of London’s best-loved high streets, say campaigners. In Islington more than 13,000 people have signed a petition calling for next month’s increases to be delayed because of the “devastating” impact on small independent shops.
Campaigners claim many smaller businesses in streets such as Upper Street and Camden Passage — both famous for quirky, one-off shops — will face closure as rates are adjusted to reflect higher local property values. Islington shopkeepers face rises of up to 45 per cent, among the biggest in the UK.
The petition, raised by the Islington Chamber of Commerce and the Angel Business Improvement District warns that independent shops will be driven out of business by the move, leaving empty premises across the borough. The groups want the increase frozen until after Britain has left the European Union. As a “Plan B” the petition asks Chancellor Philip Hammond, who today delivered his first spring Budget, to offer small businesses more government assistance to help pay the higher bills.
Councillor Asima Shaikh, who helped deliver the petition to the Treasury, said the new rates could have a “destructive effect” on high streets, forcing smaller firms from cafés and pubs to boutiques and bookshops out of business.
Christine Lovett, chief executive of the Angel Business Improvement District, said: “Our high streets are the lifeblood of our communities. They are also places where fledgling businesses cut their teeth and grow.
“As it is, our vibrant high streets are threatened by online shopping, high rents and the uncertainty of Brexit. The Government’s huge business rate rises could be the final straw for our smaller independents.”
The Government has based next month’s bills on the revaluation of properties throughout Britain. It says using up-to-date valuations is the only fair way to tax businesses, and insists that many firms will not see their costs increased. Across London, however, where values have rocketed, higher rates will inevitably apply.
And of course, the property market would feel the knock-on effects of such business closures. A thriving high street full of quirky, independent shops exerts a powerful influence on residential property values, with people scrambling to move into areas such as Bermondsey and East Dulwich as their de facto high streets improve.