The leader of Leeds City Council has thrown his weight behind the Yorkshire Evening Post’s new Save Our High Street campaign.
Launched yesterday, the campaign is calling on the Government to overhaul a business rates system that is piling pressure on the country’s hard-working entrepreneurs.
We are also demanding an immediate freeze on any rises in the rates, which can cost even small traders tens of thousands of pounds each year.
Under the current system, business rates are collected by councils but the amounts payable are determined by the Government.
In Leeds, the Labour-controlled local authority only gets to keep 49 per cent of the rates that it collects.
Retaining 100 per cent would be worth an extra £375m per annum to the cash-strapped authority.
And council leader Keith Wakefield says that situation highlights the need for urgent changes to the way business rates are run.
Coun Wakefield told the YEP: “It is completely unfair for a successful city like Leeds to be generating money but only keeping half of it.
“At present we don’t get much say at all in how the system works. If we were in charge of it, there would be more scope for flexibility, more scope for recognising the specific needs of individual areas within the city.
“I know people who are desperate to set up in business but they just cannot afford to do it. That’s why I’m in favour of the YEP campaign for change on this front.”
To add your name to the YEP’s Save Our High Street online petition, visit the www.change.org/p/uk-government-launch-an-immediate-review-of-the-business-rates-system-in-england-freezing-rates-in-the-interim web page.
We also want to hear from traders who feel they are not getting a fair crack of the whip from the business rates system.
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The YEP’s call for a new deal on business rates is part of a nationwide campaign involving hundreds of our sister Johnston Press titles and the British Independent Retailers Association (Bira).
A Bira spokesman said: “Business rates were designed for the retail world of 1990, but they need to work for the realities of today and be made fit for 2020.
“Shops in towns pay several times per square foot what other ratepayers pay in other locations and the disadvantage is hampering small shops in their fight for survival.
“This needs to be put right permanently, not tinkered with as the Government has done with a series of short term measures.”