Sophia Yates, owner of Brixton’s Hootananny venue, has warned that the figures being used in the growing national debate about business rates greatly underestimate the challenges facing small and entertainment businesses.
And she called for users and supporters to get involved in the campaign to stop the huge rises in business rates that are due to take effect in April.
The government has said that it will help businesses affected by increased business rates valuations. Details are expected in the Budget, due on 8 March.
“There is a national debate about business rates, but with the wrong numbers,” said Yates.
“We small businesses need your voices to be heard on our behalf. We need help.
“Just go on the Valuation Office Agency website plug in 10 local business postcodes and see for yourselves.
“These rises are on top of a new requirement to pay pensions and increase wages year on year.”
Yates has written to government ministers Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid; Lambeth council leader Lib Peck; London Mayor Sadiq Khan and his Night Czar Amy Lame; and her local MP Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) to ask for help.
She told them that “town centres are being crucified in favour of out of town storage and internet businesses”.
And she backed up her call with shocking figures from Brixton which not only show some huge rates increases but, also, that they are not consistent or fair.
Prince of Wales, club, Coldharbour Lane, has a 84% increase on its valuation, £225,000, and will have to pay the Cross Rail supplement.
Brixton Jamm, club, (listed as Bar Lorca pub), Brixton Road, has a 34% increase on its valuation, £43,000
The Florence, Dulwich Road, (listed as Brockwell Park Tavern) pub, has a 27% increase on its valuation, £175,000. Will have to pay Cross Rail supplement.
Hootananny, Effra Road, pub/venue, has a 61% increase. £120,000, same size pub as Brixton Jamm, will have to pay Cross Rail supplement.
The White Horse, pub, Brixton Hill, 69% increase. £143,000. Will have to pay Cross Rail supplement.
The Dogstar, pub/club, Coldharbour Lane, 1% increase, (bigger pub than the White Horse) £102,000.
Market House, pub, Coldharbour Lane, 116% increase, £151,000, Will have to pay Cross Rail supplement.
Any of the venues listed that pay more than £55,000 rates must also pay £2,000 for the Cross Rail, for the first time this year as well.
The actual rates payable are calculated by multiplying the new rateable value by 0.48.
“Hootananny, for instance,” said Yates, “will have to pay £57,600 business rates plus £2,000 Cross Rail: total £69,600. We were paying £35,760! Crippling increase – and that is after I appealed.
“I wonder why the huge variation for these pubs? Apart from the rises being astronomic, they are erratic.
“The rises are meant to be against fair, maintainable rents. Venues in the same district or street are being treated differently.”
She said that, as well as rate increases, businesses must, for the first time, begin paying pension contributions for staff this year.
They were also being squeezed by year-on-year increases in the legal minimum wage.
Businesses like the Hootananny employed and contracted large numbers of people, she said.
Her venue “puts money in the pockets of 120 young people a week, including all the band members”.
Year-on-year wage rises would cost the Hootananny at least £20,000 per year more.
The new requirement for small companies to pay pensions will require businesses to pay at least a 3% contribution if a member staff is earning over £192 a week. But half of Hootananny staff “dip in and out of earning this sum”.
Yates told the politicians: “You can imagine what stress all these extra financial burdens are to our small businesses.
“I wonder if you think our businesses will survive. I wonder how you will feel if all our staff are dismissed?
“There is a national debate, but with the wrong numbers. We businesses need your voices to be heard on our behalf. We need help.”
Lambeth council has started a petition on business rates and the Brixton Business Improvement District has sent an open letter to chancellor of the exchequer Phillip Hammond highlighting the pressure of business rates increase on local businesses.