Liblink: Greg Mulholland MP on business rates for pubs and restaurants

Greg Mulholland writes in Politics Home on how pubs up and down the country are being unfairly hit by business rate revaluation.

Pubs are, of course, businesses and need to pay their share of tax. Yet when research for the British Beer and Pub Association shows that pubs are paying 2.8% of the entire business rate bill, whilst only generating 0.5% of business turnover, the plain unfairness of the current system towards pubs is laid bare. The revaluation will further this disadvantage, with pubs and restaurants receiving a 15% and 23% increase in rateable value respectively, being the only sector to see an increase in every region. Half of all pubs and restaurants will see an increase in bills, with average bills rising by a fifth. Analysis shows that 2,700 pubs will receive an increase in their bills from April of over £5,000 per annum, which is incredibly difficult – indeed in many cases impossible – to absorb.

And is the system of business rates really fit for purpose – might not something like a land value tax be better?

A broader debate about business taxation is also necessary, in light of the growth of online retail and the changing dynamic of business operations, with an ever-increasing call for funding from a diminishing amount of trade being carried out through physical properties. In the 21st century, the current business rates system is no longer fit for purpose, and we now need a genuine, independent review and root and branch reform, something the Government have so far ducked doing.

And it is always good to see a mention go to Hilaire Belloc – author of such wonderful cautionary tales as that of Jim who ran away from his Nurse and was eaten by a lion, and of Lord Lundy who was too freely moved to tears and thereby ruined his political career.

It was, perhaps ironically, a Frenchman who wrote the great lines about the threats faced our pubs just over 100 years ago. In This and That (1912) he wrote those famous words “But when you have lost your Inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England”. Hilaire Belloc was also a Liberal MP, perhaps he too raised this in Parliament and no doubt would do so today were he around.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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  • Richard Underhill 7th Mar '17 - 4:58pm

    Business rates were a factor in the defeat of Tory Chairman Chris Patten in Bath in 1992, as well as his acceptance of a Cabinet post with responsibility for the Poll Tax.

  • Hilaire Belloc…… yes, for a brief five years a Liberal M.P., a clever man,and a purveyor of amusing (if dark) children’s poetry.

    I’m not sure that his comments on some elements of the Marconi affair would pass muster in modern liberal thought though.The title of a book written by him in 1922 gives the clue.

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