THE future of rural businesses such as cattle marts could be under threat due to business rate increases.
The rates are based on a property’s rentable value and the government is reviewing the amounts charged, but there are fears that this could lead to hefty increases particularly for those with a large property footprint such as cattle marts.
Andrew Pratt, chairman of Hawes Auction Mart, has spoken out against the hikes, describing them as “another nail in the coffin for rural businesses”.
And Stephen Walker, manager of Leyburn Auction Mart, said it would be hard for rural businesses to find the extra money.
He said: “We are all in the same boat I believe, but to what extent I don’t know yet. I know our rateable value is probably going to double.
“Auction marts run on very small margins, maybe with a three per cent commission, which doesn’t go very far particularly if one of your major costs is going to double. It is going to impact on us greatly.”
Mr Walker also pointed out that a thriving auction mart benefits nearby businesses so they are an important wider contributor to local rural economies.
Giles Drew, auctioneer and manager at Northallerton Auctions Ltd, has contacted his local MP, Rishi Sunak, over the issue.
He said that the government needs to find a new way to value businesses so that huge increases are avoided. “We are already paying a lot of money in rates and it’s only going to get worse,” he said.
Mr Sunak, MP for Richmondshire, is looking into the matter and is speaking to ministers about the impact rate rises will have on rural businesses in particular.
The CLA (Country Land and Business Association) is also meeting with officials to express concern over rate increases.
Dorothy Fairburn, CLA Director North, said: “The CLA is acutely aware of the problems being faced by many rural businesses – not just auction marts – by this revaluation for business rates.
“Our chief surveyor in London is meeting with staff from the Valuation Office Agency to challenge them on their justification for these unprecedented increases.