Today I spent a considerable amount of time visiting businesses in Brecon, in Llandrindod Wells, and in Knighton. Despite what Rhodri Morgan told me in First Minister’s questions a few weeks ago, I have yet to find a business that will be paying less in business rates next year as compared with this year. It is true to say that some have got smaller increases than others, but that is scarcely surprising.
Today I met a business that will be paying £30,000 more per year in business rates next year than this year. That is truly massive and horrific, especially given the state of the economy.
In England, where there are also increases, there is at least the prospect of some transitional relief. It seems the Minister privately has said that is not going to happen in Wales. One of the frustrations in Wales, of course, is that we still don’t know what the Minister’s thinking is on small business rate relief or on transitional relief. We are relying on what he has told some Labour MPs rather than any statement he has made to the Assembly. I raised this with the Presiding Officer as a Point of Order some weeks ago and he encouraged the Minister to come and make an oral statement to the Chamber on the issue. Still we wait.
It is late evening before I depart from Brecon and there is mist and driving rain. Driving through the constituency in this sort of weather one could almost be anywhere, except for the smell of garlic (a smell I love). This reminds me I must be near Beacon Foods in Brecon.
I will raise the issue of business rates in the Assembly this Tuesday, once more, to highlight the plight of businesses which affects, of course, the livelihoods of my constituents in Mid & West Wales.