IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Rates rise fury as Arsenal win, traders lose

Shops and pubs hit with 45% hike, but football giant will pay less

24 February, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Trader Hak Huseyin: ‘This whole process is silly, and I’m being polite’

TRADERS in Islington are furious at being hit with huge increases in business rates while Premier League giants Arsenal are not having to pay a penny more.

The government has completed a review of rates and increased “rateable values” for businesses in the borough by an average of 45 per cent – the third highest rise in England.

One pub and live music venue, The Lexington in Pentonville Road, will face a rise in rates of £16,000 from April after a whopping 200 per cent increase in its rateable value.

But the Tribune has discovered that Premier League clubs Arsenal – which generates more than £100 million from home games – and Chelsea will see a reduction from April.

Online retail giant Amazon, which earlier this month reported £600m in profits for the final quarter of 2016 and is under fire over allegations of tax avoidance, is expected to see business rates fall at six of its nine major distribution centres, according to business rates specialists CVS.

“I’m actually amazed. This whole process is silly, and I’m being polite,” said Hak Huseyin, vice-chairman of Islington Chamber of Commerce, who is leading the local campaign against the tax hike.

“It’s ridiculous. And the fact that certain [big] businesses are getting a reduction when we get a massive increase is outrageous. I would like to see this calculator that they’re using.”

Traders have warned that the rises will have a crippling effect on small and independent businesses in places such as Camden Passage, Upper Street and Highbury Barn.

Mr Huseyin, who runs Absolute Print in Junction Road, Archway, will see his rates rise to £15,000, up from £11,000 – a 36 per cent increase.

“I honestly don’t think this system works,” he added. “I run a printers, not the country, but I know this is wrong. No one in their right mind will go into business if the government can just increase rates by 50 per cent. Everybody accepts things will be raised by the rate of inflation. But how can you plan for this?

“There are going to be so many closures, so many job losses, town centres emptying, which brings poverty and crime. They’ve got to find a more sensible way of doing it.”

The government has come under massive pressure over the issue. Prime Minister Theresa May this week ordered a review of business rates relief.

Labour has accused the government of consistently favouring large businesses over smaller companies in its tax reforms.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell last night (Thursday) backed Islington traders by calling for a “radical overhaul” of business taxation to create a “much fairer and more equal tax system”.

“The business rates system is rigged against the interests of small businesses,” he told the Tribune. “Islington is one of those areas that will be particularly badly affected and the Tories need to bring forward a fair deal for small businesses and reverse the tax giveaways to big corporations.

“While online giants like Amazon are seeing their business rates cut, many high street retailers in Islington face a massive hike in their rates.”

A petition by Islington Chamber of Commerce and Angel.London business improvement district calling on the government to freeze the implementation of the rates valuation has racked up more then 8,000 signatures. Islington Council is backing the campaign.

Mr Huseyin will travel to Westminster on Wednesday to deliver the petition to Chancellor Philip Hammond.
A government spokesman said: “As part of the revaluation of business rates to make bills fairer, measures such as transitional relief have been made available to support those seeing increases.

“However, government is looking at how best to provide further support to businesses facing the steepest increases. Ministers expect to be in a position to make an announcement at the time of the budget in two weeks.”

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