Business rates. Never the sexiest issue in the political landscape but one to watch right now. Grumbling from business, and retailers in particular, about this tax has been on the rise for a few years now. They point out that not only is it perennially on the rise, but it disadvantages high street businesses who employ larger numbers of people, and can give a competitive boost to online shopping resourced from out-of-town warehouses with relatively fewer employees.
Three years ago, the Government deferred the revaluation of rates, kicking the can past the 2015 election. But instead of using the time to reform a system that almost all agree is outdated, they did nothing. So the turkeys are coming home to roost now with the revaluation hitting areas with rising land values the most, so by far and way the biggest negative effects are on Tory constituencies, creating a large number of unhappy backbenchers.
But rather than blame the real culprit – the Treasury who have consistently blocked attempts at reform – poor Sajid Javid is the man in the Ministerial hotseat and getting most of the associated fire. On the back of a rather underwhelming Housing White Paper earlier this month, and persistent rumours of a poor relationship with Number 10, the man who was once seem as a future Chancellor is not having the best 2017 so far.
So watch out for some extra cash to mitigate the impact in next month’s budget. But the fundamental reform of business rates need? We’ll believe it when we see it.