In its new Casual Dining manifesto, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) argued for a ‘root and branch’ reform of business rates and an updating of the Code for Business Leasing Premises.
The Association said the Government should cut unnecessary costs of doing business by ensuring that ‘authorities have a regard to economic growth for planning and licensing decisions’.
It believed that potential growth and investment in communities could be ‘unlocked’ by scrapping National Insurance Contributions for under-25s, through direct funding for apprenticeships and by bonuses for businesses each time they take on an apprentice.
ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Eating-out businesses serve 42 million meals each year and contribute £209k per restaurant to their wider local communities.
She added: “This is a significant contribution that can be capitalised on if the conditions for businesses permit it. Cutting costs and providing businesses with opportunities to invest is crucial, and the ALMR will continue to push for a fairer, flexible market, particularly in respect of property, that allows our casual dining businesses to flourish.”
Meanwhile, CVS – which specialises on advising small businesses about rates – has urged chancellor George Osborne to invest in the business rates system to ensure it ‘helps rather than hinders UK businesses’.
Based on its work with more than 50,000 largely SME business clients – CVS said greater efficiency, transparency and fairness must be central to any reform.
In a letter to the chancellor, it is also demanding a reversal from the current burden of responsibility sitting with the taxpayer and argued that the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) should do more to disclose and substantiate the calculations by which an occupier’s business rates bill has been arrived at.
CVS chief executive Mark Rigby said: “The coalition Government introduced several consultations on business rates, but did not enact any real change.
“Therefore, it will be remembered for its postponement of the revaluation more than anything it did to help businesses struggling with an unwieldy and opaque business rates system.”
Rigby added: “What we want to see is investment into the business rates system to make it better. If the new Government is serious about being pro-business and if it wants to achieve its fiscal targets without choking off growth, it needs to put adequate resources into the VOA as well as change the culture around business rates.”
CVS also suggested that improvements to the business rates system will be essential if the new Government is to make good in its commitment to eliminate the budget deficit by 2018 while avoiding any increases in income tax, National Insurance and VAT.