Local Senedd Member for Monmouth, Nick Ramsay, who is the Shadow Minister for Finance, during Plenary on 1st July questioned the Welsh Government’s Finance Minister on the future of business rates in Wales.
Nick said: “If I can focus on the business rates side of things, the Welsh Conservatives have long called for a whole look at the structure of business rates in Wales and business rates support, and the possibility of taking businesses with a rateable value of less than £15,000 out of paying altogether.
“Minister, I appreciate that at the moment it's a very careful balancing act that you've got to do, between making sure that local authorities have the right level of taxation and that businesses are supported. Can I ask, as we come out of the pandemic and come out of the lockdown, that you do look again at the way that business rates work in Wales, so that those businesses that need as much money as possible at the moment to invest in the future and to employ people will be able to do so? And I think that a look at the whole business rate regime and easing the burden on businesses is one way that you can do that.”
In response, Rebecca Evans MS stated: “ I'm really keen to explore what more we could do or what we could do differently, in fact, in the field of local government finance, and particularly of course non-domestic rates, but also council tax, because they are two pillars that support local government. That's one of the reasons why I commissioned a range of research that will help us understand what the options are for the future. So, we have Bangor University looking at the potential of a local land value tax and we published that report in March of this year. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has undertaken some research on council tax revaluation and reform, and that was published in April of this year. And then Policy in Practice has been doing work, looking at the council tax reduction scheme. There was an interim report published in January and we expect the final report to be published very shortly. And then another piece of work that we expect in September looks at local taxes based on income, so that would be quite a radical approach there.
“So, I'm really keen that all of these pieces of research are there in the public domain—there for all parties and all interested parties to be considering ahead of the next Senedd elections, so that we consider what the way forward might be. I'm not interested in change for the sake of it, but I do recognise that there are significant improvements that we can continue to make to non-domestic rates and council tax.”
Speaking later, after asking what consideration the Labour-led administration had given to making business rates relief for up to £15,000 the “new norm”, Nick said:
“We’re hearing some of the right noises coming from the Labour-led Welsh Government, but I – and undoubtedly many businesspeople – was left lacking any feeling of reassurance from the Minister’s statements.
“The health emergency produced by the Covid pandemic has been grave, but the economic emergency we’re in will wreak a different, but equally devastating effect. The Minister must implement a structured plan with indicators to save the economy and livelihoods as Wales exits lockdown.”