Belfast Telegraph

MP warns of rural 'uprising' over business rates revaluation

Hikes in rates for rural businesses risk triggering an "uprising", a Tory MP has warned.

Glyn Davies said communities risk being "destroyed" if increases under the latest revaluation put countryside firms out of business.

Rural enterprises with large footprints such as horse riding schools, vineyards or stud farms are facing unfair increases in the amount of tax they pay under a revaluation "calculated at a desk", according to campaigners.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) sets the values of properties based on their rental value on the open market every five years.

However pressure on rural businesses has led to calls for the current "bricks and mortar" valuation method to be overhauled.

Mr Davies, the MP for Montgomeryshire, called for greater transparency on how the rates are calculated.

"I can see this becoming a very, very big issue. There is going to be a bit of an uprising. If we see businesses closing ... it will destroy local communities," he told The Times.

"Just what are the instructions to the district value assessors? They have got to go on actual rental value, not some notional rental value based on space."

The Tory backbencher's warning comes after the Government was urged to carry out a "root-and-branch re-appraisal" of the valuations in the House of Lords.

Sarah Phillips, director of participation at the British Horse Society, told The Times: "A riding school is not the same as, say, a spanner factory. You can't simply just squeeze more horses and riders into the space (to cover higher bills).

"There is a safety issue. How can they justify these increases? We want an explanation from the Valuation Office Agency of how they arrived at the unit valuations they have."

The VOA says it approaches all classes of property fairly and equally, and always uses recognised methods to set rateable values.

Certain properties are exempt from business rates, including agricultural land and buildings, buildings used for training or welfare of disabled people or buildings used for religious worship.

The Department of Communities and Local Government said no small business will see an increase of more than 5% this year, while £3.6 billion is being spent on relief.

A spokesman said: "This revaluation improves the fairness of rate bills by making sure they more closely reflect the property market.

"Nearly three-quarters of business in England will see no change, or even a fall - including 600,000 who from April will have their bills cut altogether."

Simon Hart, chairman of the Countryside Alliance, told The Times: "Some of these rates decisions are mathematical exercises calculated at a desk that don't take into account the individual business.

"It strikes me as peculiar to push some people into giving up their business or having to downscale.

"That cannot be in the interest of the collecting authority as it will mean less tax going to the Treasury and that is surely not the intention."