Labour Party Conference – Business rates I presume!?

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Labour Party Conference – Business rates I presume!?

As the Labour conference begins today there are likely to be a few headlines hitting the papers in the coming days – some of which will not reference the devolution of powers to cities, countries, regions and who knows where else.

The minimum wage will be a big point, accompanied by the ‘cost of living crisis’ – this concept was proudly launched at the ‘One Nation Economy’ speech at Senate House back in January. I sat listening to the rapturous applause which followed every sentence, Ed was quite at home as he spun around looking his staunch supporters in the eye. However, little has been said since. The focus has been on Scotland, Ed’s inability to lead, foreign policy and education. So expect the re-launch of Ed’s baby and this time it may well be more widely acknowledged.

One thing likely to be referenced are our high streets and the challenges we face rejuvenating them and turning them into centres of our communities once more. This will please the real estate industry as it is an area in need of serious attention. Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government is a passionate and credible champion of the British High Street. She attends many debates and listens to arguments for change. However, I fear her sound bites will be likely focused on housing and the need for greater provisions (all linking back to the cost of living). While the construction industry will welcome government’s intention to build housing, other property professionals will be less satisfied.

What Labour, and indeed all the parties are unlikely to tackle is the broken business rates system. The 100 businesses that signed an open letter (reported in the Telegraph) last week, are calling for ‘fundamental reform’. There will be reference to it of course – a 1% cut, small business relief, vacant property relief, etc. However, these cuts and short term solutions highlight the real stark issue. The system is broken. There may well be a review promised and an acknowledgement of the opposition to the current system from the BRC. More frequent valuations will be promised (as all the parties will). But it will be some time before we understand what government (whichever party leads it) will do to transform a broken property taxation system. A 1% will not make the problem go away forever.

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