Some good news for business in pre-budget report

THE news on Monday that, just six months after the Government abolished business rate relief on empty premises, it is to be at least partially reinstated will be welcomed by companies and councillors in Cambridgeshire who have been urging just that. The i

THE news on Monday that, just six months after the Government abolished business rate relief on empty premises, it is to be at least partially reinstated will be welcomed by companies and councillors in Cambridgeshire who have been urging just that.

The introduction of a £1billion temporary Small Business Finance Scheme also meets another of Huntingdonshire business leaders' pre-statement demands, though the increase in National Insurance contributions next year will not be popular with either companies nor employees.

Companies' initial reaction to the empty-property measures has been worrying senior Huntingdonshire's district councillors, who are concerned that empty premises are being demolished to avoid the tax, so that they will not be available as bases for businesses emerging from the downturn.

Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce had started a petition and was urging firms to back its call to restore 50 per cent rate relief on empty offices and retail outlets and 100 per cent rate relief on industrial units, which were abolished last April.


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Chief executive John Bridge said last week: "We were very much against the abolition of rate relief from the outset and I brought this issue up with Treasury Minister Angela Eagle just a couple of months ago. It is ridiculous that we should find ourselves in the situation we are in now, where perfectly functional but empty warehouses are being torn down because the rates payable make them unaffordable."

Ahead of Monday's pre-budget report the British Chamber of Commerce had called for a series of immediate business tax cuts, including reductions in National Insurance contribution rates and a reversal of the increase in small companies corporation tax.

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Meanwhile, the Huntingdonshire branch of the Federation of Small Businesses said it was monitoring closely the way banks were keeping their promises to lend fairly to small firms.

Chairman Malcolm Lyons said: "The FSB has found inconsistencies between the boardroom and the bank manager when it comes to lending to small businesses. We want to see immediate action to save thousands of small businesses in danger, and we hope this scheme will push the Government and the banks to act now before more jobs go and more businesses go bust."

The employers' organisation, the Confederation of British Industry, said last week that viable businesses were being put at risk by the over-cautious and risk-averse behaviour of lenders, who were squeezing vital working capital.

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