BUSINESSES in Hartlepool are backing a new Mail campaign demanding an overhaul of taxes that are crippling the high street.
We are joining forces with hundreds of our sister Johnston Press titles, as well as the British Independent Retailers Association, to demand that business rates are frozen immediately and an urgent review of the system is conducted.
Today, we are asking our readers to sign our petition urging the Government to think again about an unfair tax which has been increased by nearly £700m in the past three years, leaving traders with the highest property tax bills in Europe.
One Hartlepool coffee shop manager says his business is at risk of going under if he does not get some help to deal with his running costs.
Paul Zielinski, who runs Coffee Rappor Bar, in the town’s York Road, pays £200 a week to the council in rates and said he fully supports the Mail campaign.
He said: “The business rate has a detrimental effect.
“I’ve got to find £9,800 a year in rates and rent before I make any money to pay staff.
“I’m paying £200 a week business rates, that’s really breaking my bank.”
Mr Zielinski, who took over the business 18 months ago says he only pays himself £1.26 an hour, in order to pay his staff.
He is currently appealing to the Valuation Office Agency in a bid to see a reduction in his current rates.
He added: “I employ two people as apprentices and am taking another one on.
“I’m taking people off the dole and yet the Government won’t give me any help with my rates.
“They have got to give something back.
“Even if they were cut by 50 per cent, it would be a help.
“I’ve approached my landlord to say if the position stays as it is I will be putting my notice in because I can’t afford to pay the rates and the rent.
“It is frustrating because I want to make it work.”
Richard Blades, who runs bespoke apparel shop Personaleyez, also in York Road, said he would welcome any reduction in rates.
The shop is currently exempt from paying business rates in a scheme to support new businesses, but he faces having to pay £300 a month from next April.
Richard, 54, who launched the business with his wife Susan after he was made redundant as a sales manager in the construction industry, said: “I would have to find extra turnover to cover the rates alone so it is a concern.
“As a new business it would have a marked impact on running costs. We also pay £250 a month just on electricity.
“We are both in our 50s, so we have to make this work.
“As much help as we can get would be very welcome.”
Westminster’s Business Innovation and Rates Committee has looked at business rates and described the current system as ‘not fit for purpose’ and in need of reform.
The committee called for a wholesale review including whether taxes should be based on sales rather than the rateable value of a property; whether retail needs its own system of business taxation; and how frequently revaluations should take place.
The Government was due to carry out a revaluation in 2015, but this has been put back to 2017 and beyond.