Fed National President, Jason Birks, has joined fifteen leading business representatives in signing a letter to the Welsh Finance Minister calling for a minimum of freezing business rates ahead of next week’s budget.
The collective call comes ahead of the unveiling of the Welsh Government’s Budget on 13 December, which is expected to set the business rate and associated reliefs and thresholds for the 2023-24 financial year.
The Welsh business rate multiplier is already at a 23-year high and is higher than anywhere else in Great Britain. In the UK Government’s Autumn Statement last month, the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed the business rate in England would not increase next April.
The joint letter from the business representative and trade bodies was submitted to Rebecca Evans, the Welsh Government’s Finance Minister earlier this week. The text of the letter was:
Dear Finance Minister,
We are writing jointly ahead of the Welsh Budget to ask that you do not increase the multiplier rate in the coming financial year.
We fully recognise that the Welsh Government, like business, is facing its own costs and inflationary pressures at the present time. We note too that headway has been made in recent years on broader aspects of rates reform including your current consultation into more fundamental reform.
Yet, after two turbulent years of the pandemic the fact is trading conditions remain challenging, the cost of doing business is spiralling, and the near-term economic outlook is weak. Given the decision taken in the UK Autumn Statement we ask that at the very least Welsh Ministers follow suit and similarly freeze the headline business rate multiplier in the coming financial year. This would aid firms with the costs crisis, help them keep down prices for customers, support business investment, and ensure there is not an even greater discrepancy between the Welsh business rate and that which applies across the border.
Our organisations have a range of ideas on how the Welsh rates system could be improved. However, we collectively believe this practical measure to at least freeze the business rate requires to be taken in your upcoming Welsh Budget, which would be a positive step applicable to all commercial premises and help ease the burden at this difficult time.