A new cafe has opened up in Marylebone near my residence in Westminster. It’s owned by an Oriental couple and you can sense on visiting how hard they are trying to make their business successful. It’s situated next to Pret but many prefer a family type concern to a formulaic chain. I wish them them well but I doubt if they will succeed. Why? The competition, prices, custom ? No – the business rate.
A building in which I have an interest has to pay business rates of £60000 per annum. We know this figure to be excessive as it’s based on faulty rental values. The appeal has been outstanding for nearly three years. The rating authority is no hurry to determine the appeal, nor can you make them do so . However, if I am late for payment, their sanction is a summons in the magistrates court. It is the most ridiculous tax,though it earns the government£21m and – of course – internet companies don’t pay it. It is ruining the very existence of the high street but, though the government makes the right noises, they would prefer not to repeal it. Few things better illustrate a theme often resounded by me, namely the wide gap between the interests of commerce in the capital and the Ivory Tower that is the Westminster Village in doing anything to help.