Double trouble for Brixton businesses

Stockwell primary school pupils in Brixton Station Road working on a project on the Network Rail arches
Stockwell primary school pupils in Brixton Station Road working on a project on the Network Rail arches

Brixton retailers and other traders are facing a double threat from huge business rate increases and the blight on the centre of the shopping district created by Network Rail’s closure of its arches.

Some traders on Brixton Station Road, who are worst affected by the arch closures, say their trade is down by more than 50%.

The council has demanded a meeting with Network Rail over delays in starting work on the redevelopment of the arches. Network Rail has blamed the delay on legal action by the four remaining arches tenants who have refused its offers to end their leases.

Scott Leonard, founder and creative director of The Champion Agency in Brixton, said small companies faced business rate increases of a third or more.

“We’re in a very uncertain period within the country – to then levy them with a tax of up to 30% higher than what they’re currently paying is not acceptable,” said Leonard.

Lambeth council and the Brixton Business Improvement District (BID), representing more than 600 local businesses, have both warned of the serious consequences of business rate rises due to come into effect on 1 April next year.

The council said some businesses face increases of 45%, with an average increase of 35% in Lambeth.

Business rates are based on rent levels which have soared in Lambeth, and Brixton in particular, since the last review.

The council said: “Alongside increasing staffing costs, rents and uncertainty over Brexit, the rise in rates could prove crippling to many businesses.”

It has written to the government asking for measures to help businesses cope with the rates rise, such as a phasing plan or better transitional relief.

Local authorities like Lambeth collect business rates, but most of the cash raised goes to central government. “The way it is redistributed means Lambeth will not see a penny of the extra money, meaning no local benefit,” the council said.

Both the council and BID are urging businesses and others to contact ministers and join petitions against the rate rises.

Councillor Jack Hopkins, Lambeth cabinet member for regeneration, business and culture, said: “This huge rise in rates is incredibly unfair on businesses in London, and Lambeth in particular.

“Lambeth has had the biggest rate of new business growth of any London borough, yet this huge increase in costs, on top of the uncertain economic climate, increasing rents and staffing costs, puts all that progress at risk.”

As well as writing to the Secretary of State on the matter, the council is collecting signatures online to show the strength of feeling from the business community.

The BID has produced a model letter for its members to send to communities and local government secretary of state Sajid Javid.

It says that London businesses will pay an extra £855 million in business rates each year as a result of the rate increases.

Government proposals for transitional relief “do little to enable businesses to plan and prepare for such a massive increase in taxation in such a short period of time,” it goes on.

“Such unexpectedly large tax increases, with just six months’ notice to prepare for them, will have a real negative impact on investment, job creation and profitability for many London businesses at a time when confidence and stability are needed more than ever.

“Without mitigating measures, businesses of all types, which make our city a vibrant and diverse place to live, work and visit, will find it difficult to survive and grow.”