Fresh warning on rate hikes

    THE agency which will be representing a number of Tunbridge Wells firms at a business rates tribunal next month has waned the town faces a collective £2 million hike in the tax next year.

    Manchester-based firm CVS was thrust into the middle of an ongoing dispute between the council and the Valuation Office Agency start of November when it was disclosed it was helping 21 companies to have their rates revaluated – which if successful, would land local taxpayer with a £4million bill.

    The joint action has been described as the council’s ‘worst fears being realised’, by its Director of Finance and Corporate Services, Lee Colyer.

    However, Tunbridge Well’s companies will be hit hard when the recent review of rates comes into force in April, with research revealing the combined rateable value of the borough’s 4,003 businesses has risen from £127,071,493 in 2010 to £134,739,996.

    As a result, CVS, which specialises in securing re-evaluations for businesses, project this will add an additional £2,004,345 in payable tax on businesses within the borough, meaning the total rates bill next year is likely to rise to £66,870,234.

    Mark Rigby, CEO of CVS says: “There’s no doubt that the new Rating List isn’t the best bit of news for businesses in Tunbridge Wells.

    “The previous business rates assessments took effect just as the financial crisis turned the property market on its head. That meant that over the last seven years, businesses here have effectively been paying less than what they perhaps should have been.”

    However, he noted the government’s proposal for a scheme called ‘transitional relief’ – currently under consultation – would help to cushion the blow by phasing in increases in rates bills.

    The £2million hike is not likely to be spread evenly cross the borough, as recent research undertaken by the Times in October revealed huge variations in the results of the recent revaluation.

    It was found that out of 30 businesses cheeked at random on the High Street, Out of 30 High Street businesses checked by the Times at random, 21 will have to find extra money with the highest rise in rateable value being 21 per cent.

    Meanwhile, retailers operating within the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre will benefit from some of the largest cuts, which will fall on average by 23 per cent.

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