14% of English Businesses faced Court Action over late payments last year

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One in seven business premises in England were summoned to appear in court last year after falling behind on business rates payments, according to estimations from the Grimsey high street review.

The data highlights the crippling effect that onerous property taxes are having on businesses as they struggle to pay the increasing costs.

Snapshot research from the Grimsey high street review, which is being conducted by former Focus boss Bill Grimsey, shows that the use of bailiffs to collect business rates have surged 18.3% since 2010/11.

The findings came from Freedom of Information requests to 90 local authorities in England, which cover 40% of the rating list.

The data estimates that 262,086 business premises were summoned to appear before a magistrate in 2012. Of those businesses, 131,574 would have been referred to bailiffs for collection.

Although the data does not break out properties by business sector because local authorities do not hold that information, according to business rate experts Gerald Eve, retailers make up 26.8% of commercial properties within Wales and England.

Retail expert Paul Turner-Mitchell said retailers have suffered the most.

“Year after year we’re seeing big rates rises,” he said. “We’ve had two recessions and virtually no growth in the last five years. Yet the Government’s medicine to support businesses has been a £2bn rise in business rates in the last two years. This does not make sense. We need to be supported not seen as just a cash cow.

“While ministers boast about freezing council tax to support families they’ve done nothing to support the lifeblood of our economy and kept piling on taxes for small businesses.”

Local authorities in Hyndburn, Liverpool and Slough summoned more than a quarter of business premises in their local area because of rate payment delays.

Bill Grimsey launched his alternative review of the high street last month, after he became frustrated with the Government’s Portas Review, led by retail expert Mary Portas.

Grimsey added: “It’s clear to me that a root and branch reform is needed to make business rates fair and equitable and less of a burden on retailers as a whole. This is what my review will be looking at and we’re working hard to develop alternatives.”

Retailers have been hit by more than £500,000 in additional business rates over the last three years. Big name retailers from across the sector believe the high cost of rates is restricting investment and in some cases, restricting the creation of new jobs.

Retail Week has been lobbying the Government to create a fairer rates system through the Fair Rates for Retail campaign. It urged the Government to freeze business rates and change the way they are calculated by switching from being based on September’s retail price inflation to an annualised rate of consumer price inflation.

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