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‘Red wall’ Tories Call On Rishi Sunak To Cut Business Rates

Red wall

‘Red wall’ Tories call on Rishi Sunak to cut business rates

Conservative MPs in “red wall” seats have urged the chancellor to cut business rates, days after Labour announced it would abolish the tax and overhaul the system.

Tory MPs who won seats in 2019 in Labour’s northern heartlands, including Bishop Auckland’s Dehenna Davison, Leigh’s James Grundy and Lee Anderson from Ashfield, said high street shops were most at risk of closure in seats that Boris Johnson had promised to prioritise with levelling up.

There have long been calls to reform business rates, which raise revenues of about £25bn a year in England. In March 2020 Rishi Sunak promised a review of the tax, which is expected to report this autumn.

The shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, said this week that a Labour government would freeze business rates and eventually replace them with a new, as yet undefined system that she said would reward investment, with a particular focus on businesses investing in decarbonisation and green technology.

Before the Tory conference this week, the call to slash the tax was backed by the former cabinet minister Esther McVey, who coordinates the Blue Collar Conservative group of working-class backbenchers, as well as the MP Kevin Hollinrake, who has run campaigns to overhaul property taxation including council tax and stamp duty.

Their demand was prompted by data published last week by the British Retail Consortium that suggested four out of five larger retailers would probably have to close more shops unless their business rates bill was reduced.

The group also cited research published by WPI Strategy on the impact of the pandemic on retail, particularly in areas identified for levelling up. More than 8,700 chain stores closed in UK high streets, shopping centres and retail parks in the first six months of 2021.

Constituencies with the highest numbers of vacant shops were also in the areas identified in the report: 20% of units are vacant in the north-east, and 17% in Yorkshire & Humber and the north-west, compared with just 10% in London and 12% in the south-east.

Grundy, who holds Andy Burnham’s former seat in Leigh in Greater Manchester with a slim majority, said: “My constituency is one of the worst affected in the whole of England and Wales. I’m now convinced that bringing these costs down should be an essential part of the levelling-up agenda. Voters in the north trust this Conservative government to transform their prospects. We must deliver.”

In February MPs wrote to Sunak demanding that business rates are reduced from about 50% of market rent to about 35%.

Reeves said the Conservatives should follow Labour’s lead. “The Conservative government should listen, stop with the sticking plasters and come up with real action to support businesses,” she said. “Labour would immediately cut business rates, and in the long run we would scrap them altogether, replacing them with a new system of business taxation fit for the 21st century.”

New data has also revealed how the energy crisis is likely to affect seats that the Tories are aiming to hold. Around one in six households in parliamentary “red wall” areas already have above-average levels of fuel poverty, and they can expect to see the situation worsen as a result of next week’s energy cap rise.

Three of the council areas with the highest proportion of household fuel poverty in England are in the “red wall”: Stoke-on-Trent, Wolverhampton and Sandwell in the West Midlands. On average just over 15% of households in “red wall” areas are fuel poor, compared with an England average of just above 13%.

Simon Francis, a coordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, which prepared the data, said: “The latest rises in wholesale prices means that we face the possibility of more households facing fuel poverty than ever before.”

Business

35 illegal tax collectors facing prosecution in Benue

The Acting Chairman of the Benue State Internal Revenue Service (BIRS), Emmanuel Agena, has revealed that 35 persons involved in illegal tax collection in the state are currently facing prosecution.

Agena announced that the agency has set an ambitious target to generate over N16 billion in revenue for the year 2024 following the successful surpassing of its N14 billion target in 2023.

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Agena expressed concern over the activities of illegal tax collectors in the state, noting that many of them were supported by influential personalities.

He stated that his administration at the BIRS had put an end to the era of patronage by politicians, aiming to significantly reduce illegal tax collection activities.

The BIRS boss also condemned a recent incident in which a truck carrying palliatives from Adamawa to Anambra State was hijacked by youths in Aliade, Gwer East.

He disclosed that three suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.

“A truck was intercepted and the driver beaten while the windscreen of the vehicle broken and over N200,000 was stolen.

“Three persons have been arrested and are in police custody. They will be moved to DSS for thorough investigation.

“We aim to flush out or reduce illegal tax collectors to the barest minimum. Already, 35 people who engaged in illegal tax collection were arrested and facing prosecution.

“This has been a big challenge. We have constituted a team headed by the director of Tax collection. Prominent people in the state are involved in encouraging these boys,” he stated.

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Business

Nigeria’s Inflation rate hits 33.20% in March- NBS

The National Bureau of Statistics NBS says Nigeria’s inflation rate jumped to 33.20% in March 2024 compared to February 2024 headline inflation rate which was 31.70%.

A report released by the NBS on Monday, April 15, reads

“Looking at the movement, the March 2024 headline inflation rate showed an increase of 1.50% points when compared to the February 2024 headline inflation rate.

“On a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 11.16% points higher compared to the rate recorded in March 2023, which was 22.04%. On a month-on-month basis, the headline inflation rate in March 2024 was 3.02%, which was 0.10% lower than the rate recorded in February 2024 (3.12%).

“This means that in the month of March 2024, the rate of increase in the average price level is less than the rate of increase in the average price level in February 2024.”

 

The inflation report by the NBS followed the hike of Nigeria’s interest rate from 22.75% to 24.75% by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The March inflation rate was released at a time when measures by the apex bank to strenghten the naira against foreign exchange have seen some positive results.

The naira has appreciated against the dollar in recent weeks, gaining over 40%, from about N1,900/$ to about N1,100/$1 now.

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Business

NAFDAC seals popular Supermarket in Ibadan

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) has sealed a popular groceries and cosmetics supermarket, Pinnacle in Dugbe area of Ibadan over sale of fake products.

The supermarket, usually a beehive of activities was now a shadow of itself as the gate leading to the premises was shut with an inscription directing customers to its branch at Challenge.

Management of the supermarket cited technical issues as reason for its closure.

An inside source who pleaded for anonymity however revealed that problem started on Tuesday, 2nd April , 2024 when NAFDAC surveillance team stormed the mall to enforce total shutdown of the premises, thereby forcing shoppers out of the supermarket.

“The NAFDAC team came inside the mall and told us to close, even though people were many inside who wanted to do shopping but they couldn’t because the technical issue started and they all went away in disappointment”, the source said.

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