Osborne bows to Blackpool Gazette campaign

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The Gazette has been praised for its campaigning after Chancellor George Osborne announced a fundamental
review of business rates.

More than 5,000 people signed our nationwide petition which called on Mr Osborne to carry out an urgent review of the entire business ratings system and freeze the rate while a 
review was conducted.

And in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement the chancellor boosted business everywhere when he made the announcement on rates.

Although the rate has not been frozen, small retail businesses have seen the amount of discount they are entitled to rise 50 per cent to £1,500, which is seen as a boost to many small independent shops.

A Government spokesman confirmed that the team behind the review was scheduled to report back by the Budget in spring 2016.

He said it would be the most wide ranging review of business rates since they were designed in 1988, but emphasised that the Government would not want to lose any revenue as a result of the study.

Michael Weedon, the director of communications at the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) and our partners in the campaign, welcomed the review but was disappointed that rates were not frozen in the interim.

He said: “We are delighted that a review is going ahead and we look forward to taking part and making sure it is the most useful review it can be.

“There is evidence that the Government knows there is 
real evidence there is a problem which needs to be solved.”

Paul Turner-Mitchell, who has long campaigned for the reform of business rates, said: “What your campaign has done has brought about, in a very short space of time, a campaign that shows the effect of business rates on a local business.

“The campaign has been heard at the doors of Westminster. You have highlighted the concerns of local people.”

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The Chancellor has used the last Autumn Statement before the election to demonstrate that he is listening to and supporting British businesses across the entire country.

“By focusing on key business priorities, such as Britain’s broken business rates system and the difficulty of accessing finance for growth, the Chancellor has demonstrated that he is committed to solving problems that hinder the growth aspirations of many firms.”

John Allan, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The FSB is 
delighted to see the double small business rate relief remain for another year and a full review of the outdated business rates system – something we’ve long argued for.”

The Gazette joined forces with other Johnston Press 
titles across the UK in calling for action on business rates.

Ashley Highfield, the chief executive of Johnston Press, said: “We very much welcome the decision to review the business rates paid in the high street. There’s a long way still to go but this is definitely a step in the right direction and we remain committed to supporting small business across the country and helping to safeguard their future.

“We want to thank all those who signed our petition and played their part in getting this on the Chancellor’s agenda.”