ES Views: Budget’s limit on business rate increase is welcome

Budget: Philip Hammond before giving his first Spring statement: Jeremy Selwyn

The greatest concern arising from the Budget is the National Insurance rise to 10 per cent next year and 11 per cent in 2019 — quite simply a £1 billion tax hike on those who set themselves up in business.

Future growth of the UK’s 4.8 million-strong self-employed population is now at risk. Increasing this tax burden, effectively funded by a reduction in corporation tax over the same period, is not the way to go.

That said, we welcome the fact that the Chancellor has listened to the small business-led campaign on business rates. Inner London must benefit as much as other areas following the new increase cap of £50 for those who have moved out of Small Business Rate Relief.

Furthermore, it is vitally important that the £300 million assigned to councils as hardship money is also made available for London boroughs as well.

The Government has created a memorandum of understanding with the Mayor to include the voluntary pooling of business rates. This will need careful explaining on the detail as “fair” business rates devolution is very much needed for London.
Sue Terpilowski, Federation of Small Businesses

It is no surprise that Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods, repeats the elitist rant about business rates [“London is the world’s retail capital. Don’t let this punitive tax ruin our high streets”, March 6]. As a former member of the Rates Valuation Tribunal, I would like to make a few comments.

Rates are based on rents and, if landlords are persuaded to cut rents, then rates come down too. Changing the rating system to a progressive system, valuing properties in bands, means that larger and more expensive buildings can have higher rates on the extra value.

Instead of serving the greedy elite, why not come up with a strong proposal that benefits everybody?
Mick Larkin

Hundreds of businesses across London will be relieved that the Chancellor has made some important concessions on business rates. I welcome the £300 million fund, however, as ever, the devil will be in the detail of how this is administered.

Crucially, the very welcome London Devolution Agreement, announced alongside the Budget, could mean these sorts of interventions will not be required in the future as London takes back more control over its business rates.

With the devolution of rates now very much on the horizon, I hope this heralds a new era of collaboration between the public and private sectors — a true partnership that will see local authorities listening to their business communities about local priorities and acting accordingly.
Ruth Duston, CEO, The Northbank BID, Victoria BID and Hatton Garden BID

Tech sector doesn't bridge gender gap

You'd think it would be possible to write a piece about women in the workplace that didn’t miss the point entirely. However, your article, which includes research from PwC, fails to do just that [“Gender pay gap is close to closing”, Business, March 7].

It says women “do not aspire” to big-money tech roles and need to “aim high” in order to be successful in this industry. Frankly, smart women might well be right to choose other career paths.

It’s not a lack of ambition or the desire to be a leader which sends women to other industries — it’s a sensible and rational decision based on the (correct) assumption that being a woman means you are less likely to progress, be discriminated against and subjected to sexism.

By branding women as “unambitious” or “not digitally savvy enough”, this allows firms to shirk their responsibility to address sexism.

There are plenty of women who want to and should be leaders. But until the tech sector shakes off its misogynistic culture, why would women choose to work there?
Alex Workman

Language skills are vital for cab drivers

The High Court made the right decision last week in rejecting Uber’s case against Transport for London over English language tests for drivers [March 3]. As the judge affirmed, ensuring drivers have a basic command of both spoken and written English is essential to guaranteeing passenger welfare.

The B1 standard means drivers can communicate effectively with passengers in an emergency or agree a fare. Written English skills at this level are equally important, ensuring drivers can understand regulations and information from TfL. It is also crucial to communicate with vulnerable passengers.

It is vital that the Mayor and TfL stand their ground on matters of public safety. They have robustly defended the requirement against a company with vast resources that is willing to take on regulators and governments. We hope to see this continue.
Steve McNamara, Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association

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Who would want to play for Arsenal?

Who cares whether Arsenal qualify for next year’s Champions League or not? For the past decade, their success was defined by a top-four finish, Champions League round of 16 appearance, and profits for shareholders.

Give credit where it’s due to the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, whose owners appoint football managers for the prime purpose of competing at the highest level.

Your correspondent Geoffrey Gilbert [March 7] says that Arsene Wenger wants to sell Alexis Sanchez in the next transfer window and Mesut Özil could leave too. Given their reputation for failure, why would any world-class player want to play for Arsenal?
James Redmond

Arsene Wenger’s position may be untenable but this team is so tactically unaware, brittle and injury-prone that it is not clear if even an established troubleshooter such as Rafa Benitez would be willing to take on the challenge of managing Arsenal.
Richard M

New stadiums are a welcome boost

I would like to add to J Curton’s delight at the Mayor’s welcome decision to give the go-ahead for Chelsea’s new stadium at Stamford Bridge [Letters, March 7].

But surely the bigger story on stadium proposals passed by the Mayor must be the imminent return of AFC Wimbledon to Plough Lane with a brand new 20,000-seater stadium?

Small beer you may think, but this club returned to the league just 15 years ago following Wimbledon’s move to Milton Keynes. Where were Manchester United, for example, when they turned 15? Known as Newton Heath, their stadium at the time was a field on Bank Street in Clayton with a capacity of just 10,000.

I say good luck to the clubs with stadium plans in London — and that includes the Dons coming back to Plough Lane. Where else could they go?
Stephen Alambritis, Leader of Merton Council

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