London misses rates ballot

RETAILERS across the UK will be balloted on whether they want to pay extra on their business rates to help bankroll local projects – but London has missed out because a rate has already been imposed.

The government – under pressure from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – has made it a legal requirement for rate-setting local authorities to gain the agreement of firms under its Localism Bill, published on Monday.

However, businesses in the capital have already been hit with a Business Rates Supplement (BRS) of 2p in the pound, primarily as a contribution to the Crossrail scheme.

Retailers are obliged to pay the supplement, which has been set for at least the next 20 years.

The argument was made that the £16bn east-west London rail scheme would help boost commerce across the capital, so making it of overall benefit to London businesses.

A BRC spokesman said: “The argument in London is not relevant now because the rate has already been set.”

The BRC said the rest of the UK faces rate hikes totalling £125m a year which can now only be slapped on them after they agree in a vote.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Compulsory business ballots are a major victory for the BRC on behalf of vulnerable retailers big and small.

“It would be fundamentally undemocratic to put extra taxes on local businesses without establishing their views first and assessing the potential impact on jobs.”

A spokesman for the London Chamber of Commerce said it had supported the rate supplement for Crossrail.