Editorial: From fireworks to business rates, it’s time to move forward
On the face of it, whether or not a fabulous yellow roman candle explodes like a spider across the stars for London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations is not the world’s most pressing issue. But in its own luminous way, the decision by the Mayor to cancel the capital’s midnight show for the second time in a row is indicative of the battles to come in our exit from Covid-19.
The Mayor’s office said the decision was due to “the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” and on one hand that’s understandable. But on the other – there is uncertainty in crossing the road. There is uncertainty in flu season, There is uncertainty aplenty in re-acquainting yourself with the 7:20 out of Guildford, too, specifically as to whether this morning it might have actually turned up on time.
We cannot go on delaying the return of normality thanks to uncertainty. It is when something uncertain becomes inevitable that we should act, not before.
Something that has become inevitable, alas, is a Treasury decision to kick a review of business rates into the long grass. With depressing predictability, reforming this complete horlicks of a tax has proved too difficult.
Massive online retailers can breathe a sigh of relief; high street shop owners can perhaps console themselves with a pint at the local, if it’s still in business.
There is no uncertainty around the impact of the unreformed system. More businesses will fold, no ifs, no buts, and through no fault of their own. It is years since reform was promised; years in which the playing field has been tipped against them.
This paper believes firmly in competition and the free market, but a tax system which skews that needs fixing. It is abundantly clear that business rates fit that category.
Delaying reform any further, after a pandemic which has tipped the pitch even more, is nothing less than unconscionable.