Posts Tagged ‘communities’

Emily Thornberry supports independent bookshops

May 16th, 2018

So eventually the letter I wrote to Emily Thornberry who is my MP for Islington South and Finsbury received a reply.
The Right Honourable Mel Stride is the Oxford University educated Conservative MP for Central Devon and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. His reply to Emily details some of the measures that were taken to remove the sting from the increased business rates which affect many smaller retailers. Thresholds were indeed increased and certain shops including some independent bookshops were able to escape some of the higher business rate increases. Credit where it’s due.

One particularly interesting thing that Mr Stride said was that he would be increasing the frequency of property revaluations from once every five years to once every three years. This is a reform he says to ensure that bills are fairer as they more closely reflect properties’ current rental values and relative changes in rents. It may be true that business rates are easy to collect, difficult to avoid and have a clear link with local authority spending. But if property values go up every 3 years and trigger similar increases in rents and in business rates, I suggest that the high street and local communities are going to find themselves losing out big time. In particular I think that independent High Street bookshops are going to carry on closing down as a result.
When fixed overheads increase not only because of higher rent, but doubly so because of higher rates, then it makes many independent High Street bookshops increasingly unprofitable.
Can a bookshop charge more for its £8.99 priced book? Can it add £1 more to the price of a new book for increased rent and another pound more for increased business rates? Since books are published with a recommended retail price printed clearly on them, and yet, since the net book agreement collapsed, any retailer can charge any amount they want below that price, it is like having a downwards only clause attached to the price of the products we booksellers are selling. Whereas the bookshop property leases we end up signing mainly have an upwards only clause for the rents and consequently for the business rates.
How is this fair to those independent book shops which you say the government recognises makes such a valuable contribution to the community?
Do you know what you should be doing Mr Stride?
-making 100% sure all independent book shops are indeed recognised for their special contribution and have a special business rates provision that is the equivalent to the business rates that charity shops pay. At present charities occupying commercial property are eligible for 80% mandatory relief, which local authorities can choose to top up by an additional 20%.
Emily said in her letter to me that the financial secretary to the Treasury hasn’t provided specific measures for independent bookshops.
Emily said to me that she appreciates this is not the response I was hoping for. Emily is right.
But I am going to write back to Emily to tell her what I think the response from The Right Honourable Mel Stride could and should have been. Why isn’t this the fair response that the valuable contribution independent bookshops make to the High Street and local Communities deserves: 80 to 100% business rates relief for independent bookshops in the UK?

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