Business Rate Supplements Bill
Baroness Valentine (Crossbench)
My Lords, I support Amendment A1. I remain in favour of the principle of the Bill—to provide a mechanism for business to make a financial contribution to local infrastructure provision where it is in favour of that infrastructure. But that is the crux: are they in favour? As noble Lords are aware, I am chief executive of the non-profit-making business membership organisation London First. I therefore hear the concerns of businesses from many different sectors every day.
At a time of economic uncertainty it is not helpful to be threatening additional costs on businesses alongside the planned effects of revaluation, loss of empty property relief and a general uplift in rates. Businesses, particularly those disproportionately exposed to rates, which includes most retailers, are very concerned about the prospects of being bounced into paying for unnecessary or even unhelpful projects from well intentioned but sometimes misguided local authorities. A ballot of businesses is the best safeguard to prevent that from happening. I join the noble Lord, Lord Tope, in asking the Government to think again.