Boost for SMEs in south

Businesses in England to benefit from Johnson’s rates cut

empty shops in Glasgow

Shops in Scotland will be awaiting a response from Holyrood (pic: Terry Murden)

Boris Johnson will offer a lifeline to struggling high street shops by cutting business rates by half – putting pressure on the Scottish Government to do the same.

The move will be included among 30 bills in today’s Queen’s Speech which focus on boosting public services.

Mr Johnson will unveil a 50% discount to crippling business rates for small retailers, restaurants, hairdressers, and pubs. an increase from the current discount of 33%.

The tax break will apply to all independent shops, pubs restaurants and cafes in England with a rateable value below £51,000 – roughly 90% of the total.

Nine out of 10 independent firms will qualify for the relief, which is eligible to retailers with a rateable value below £51,000 – giving them a saving of up to £12,500 in total.

Independent cinemas and music venues will also qualify to help protect local amenities. A current £1,500 relief for local newspapers will also be extended by another year.

But it will not apply in Scotland where business rates are devolved and businesses are in uproar over plans to give local councils greater powers to set their own rates.

The SNP has today issued its “alternative” Queen’s Speech with a list of 12 suggested bills that it says the government should introduce. None of the 12 addresses help for business or the economy.

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid: ‘action to save our high streets’

Chancellor Sajid Javid said: “We want to reinvigorate communities up and down our great country, helping people put the heart back into the places they call home.

“That’s why we’re taking action to save our high streets and keep pubs, cafes, and hairdressers open by slashing their business rate bills by half.

“We will also make sure that our much-cherished independent cinemas and grassroots music venues can benefit from this relief so we keep entertainment on the streets of our local towns.”

Derek Mackay, the Scottish Finance Secretary, told Daily Business yesterday that he will publish an Economic Action Plan in January in which he promises some new measures to help business.

His last plan was published in November 2018. The latest programme was delayed by the election. The new action plan follows better news for Scotland’s economy after officials figures show it avoided recession and grew by 0.3% in real terms during the third quarter of 2019. This follows a contraction of 0.2% in the previous three months.

The number of bills in today’s Queen’s Speech is double the usual amount and will be dominated by delivery of the Tories’ election promises on the NHS, crime and education – also devolved issues.

There will be an end to terrorists’ early release from jail in response to the London Bridge attack.

The first new law will come tomorrow with the return of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill so it can be passed by its 31 January.

The SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford called on the UK government to introduce the SNP’s proposals:

  • An Independence referendum – ensuring Scotland’s right to choose our own future is respected.
  • An NHS Protection Bill – to stop the threat to the NHS from a Tory-Trump trade deal, and a commitment to increase per capita health spending in England to the same level as it is in Scotland, benefiting the NHS in all four UK nations.
  • A Parental Leave Expansion Bill – to increase parental leave with an additional 12 weeks to be ring-fenced for the father in order to encourage take-up as well as increases in statutory maternity and paternity pay.
  • An Equal Living Wage Bill – to increase the national minimum wage to at least the level of the real Living wage, and to end age discrimination in the legal minimum wage.
  • A Social Security Reform Bill – to scrap the two-child cap on tax credits and rape clause, to end the benefits freeze, and halt the flawed roll out of Universal Credit.
  • A Women’s Pension Justice Bill – to deliver justice for the 3.8million women born in the 1950s denied their pension by consecutive UK governments.
  • A Climate Emergency Bill – introducing tougher legal targets, to ensure the UK government matches Scotland’s net zero emissions target by 2045 – and putting oil and gas receipts into a net-zero fund for measures to tackle climate change.
  • A new Green Energy Deal – delivering real action on the climate emergency by building on the transition toward a greener, sustainable future.
  • A BBC Licence Fee Bill – to ensure the BBC licence fee remains free for over-75s.
  • An Electoral Franchise Expansion Bill – to extend the franchise to introduce votes at 16 in general elections, as already introduced by the SNP for Holyrood elections.
  • A House of Lords Abolition Bill – to begin the process of abolishing the unelected and undemocratic House of Lords.
  • A Trident Abolition Bill – rejecting the immoral replacement of nuclear weapons at a cost of over £200billion.

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