Monmouth Assembly Member, Nick Ramsay, once again raised in the Assembly Chamber the need for greater support for our small and micro businesses, and particularly those based in our struggling High Streets.
Speaking in the Senedd yesterday Nick, Shadow Finance Minister, urged the Welsh Government to look again at the “grossly unfair” way that business rates work, referring to the fact that “because of the zoning system, you can have businesses opposite or virtually adjacent to each other on a street that are either paying no rates at all or paying quite inflated rates.”
Nick went on to refer to the Welsh Government’s draft budget:” You were proud to say yesterday that your budget was a green budget, and I think all of us want to see an effective green budget and green budgeting within Wales. As I've said, to all intents and purposes, business rates are a tax and we do need to make sure they're competitive. Do you think that, at the time of moving towards setting greener budgets, this is a good time to look again at the way that businesses in Wales are taxed and maybe to look more at moving towards a green taxation-type economy, where we shift the burden from businesses that might be small but might actually be quite environmentally friendly to businesses that might not be in order to encourage them to do better? In terms of your budget yesterday, you called it a green budget, but I haven't seen much evidence yet that you're looking at changing the way that structures such as business rates and other taxes work to make sure that we do, on the ground, help businesses that are doing their bit for the environment.”
Rebecca Evans AM, Minister for Finance replied:” Well, we're not proposing major changes to either council tax or non-domestic rates in the next financial year. What we are proposing is to gather that research and that evidence base in order to inform our thinking for the years forward. But, I'm particularly interested in a discussion that I had with the cross-party group on small shops, which was chaired by your colleague Janet Finch-Saunders recently. We talked about the value of small and medium-sized enterprises, and in this case we were particularly talking about the high street. The discussion turned to what, if we were to look afresh at business rates, we would we be requiring. Is there a better way to tie business rates to the kind of issues that we have in our economic contract? How would we, perhaps, factor in fair work or decarbonisation and so on? We don't want to create a hugely laborious, difficult and complicated system, but I think that it is only fair to think about things differently, including in terms of the green agenda as well.”