Belfast Telegraph

George Osborne's family firm to see business rates for London showroom drop

George Osborne's upmarket family wallpaper firm is to enjoy a business rates cut of more than £3,400 a year for its showroom in London's swanky King's Road, while shops on the same street are facing eye-watering hikes.

The revelation comes after George Osborne's shock appointment as the new editor of London newspaper the Evening Standard, which has been a staunch campaigner for urgent reform of business rates ahead of next month's revaluation.

Osborne & Little - the firm co-founded by his father Sir Peter Osborne - will see its London shop rates bill drop by 3.8% a year on average over the next five years , according to figures compiled for the Press Association.

The data from business rent and rates specialists CVS shows Osborne & Little's shop rates will fall on average by £3,445 to £87,030 a year.

But while the ousted chancellor's family firm is seeing rates fall for its London showroom, other retailers across the capital are being hit with crippling rises.

Even just a few doors down on the same street, other shops, pubs and restaurants are seeing steep increases.

Rising property prices on King's Road - one of London's most famous shopping streets - mean that some shops will see rate increases of more than 50%, except for a small number seeing cuts, including Osborne & Little.

Rates for one small shopping mall on the road will go up by 74%.

Business rates - the commercial equivalent of council tax - will soar by more than 20% on average for shops in the wider borough of Kensington & Chelsea in 2017/18, according to CVS.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said it was a "kick in the teeth" for those being hit hard by the rates changes.

He said: "This shows the absurdity of the system.

"The rich business gets a cut while others around it see their rates soar.

"I'm sure this was unintentional, but it will be a kick in the teeth for millions of small businesses."

Mr Osborne, who was sacked by Theresa May after she became Prime Minister last year, is understood to own a 15% share in Osborne & Little through a trust.

Details of Osborne & Little's showroom rates cut is likely to come as an embarrassment to Evening Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev, given the paper's campaign that has slammed the system as a "punitive and regressive tax on jobs and growth".

It also follows a dire week for the Conservatives after Chancellor Philip Hammond was forced to U-turn on his Budget hike for self-employed National Insurance Contributions, with the party hit a day later by a record £70,000 fine for failing to accurately report election expenses.

Mr Hammond sought to allay concerns over the April 1 business rate changes with a £435 million relief package in the Budget earlier this month.

But it is still feared that sky-high rate rises in the capital will spark swathes of shop closures and lead to high street job losses.

Mr Osborne's office did not return calls for comment and the Government said it does not comment on individual cases.

But the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which sets the rateable value of properties, said: " Rateable values are set independently of ministers by the VOA and reflect the open market rental value on a fixed date - for this revaluation it's April 1 2015.

"If those open market values have changed, then rateable values will change with them."

Figures showing Osborne & Little's rates bill follow less than two weeks after details emerged of Mr Osborne's lucrative new business contract with US fund manager BlackRock, for which he will earn £650,000 a year for just one day's work a week.

His cash pile will be boosted further by his new role as editor of the Evening Standard, which he will take up in early May, editing the paper an average of four days a week.

This comes on top of his £74,000-a-year salary as a backbench MP for Tatton, while h e has also earned more than £780,000 in payments for 14 speeches since last September.

Osborne & Little, which has paid no corporation tax since 2008 due to losses rolled over from previous years, also has shops in Munich and Geneva and six across the US.

While its London showroom will see rates fall, average annual rates will rise by 17.5% for its head office in Wandsworth over the next five years, according to CVS.

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