Michael Fabricant today unveiled a new Conservative policy designed to protect rural businesses in Staffordshire.
He announced that the next Conservative Government would cut £1,000 off the business rate bills of vital rural shops, pubs and post offices across England.
"Rural shops, post offices and village pubs are the lifeblood of villages and market towns, but are at threat from rising bureaucracy and a depressed rural economy. A Conservative Government would cut business rates, in addition to any existing rate relief, and the tax cuts would be funded by central government." Michael Fabricant explained.
"Tony Blair has denied there is a crisis in the countryside. But unlike the Government, most people know that Staffordshire needs urgent practical help. Labour’s approach of glossy documents and empty strategies just isn’t good enough. Our rural communities need new help to survive. Rural post offices and small shops are in crisis. Sub-post offices are closing at the disgraceful rate of more than one a day. If we want a living working countryside, we need to preserve these essential services.
"Tony Blair said back in February there was no crisis in the countryside – ‘Politicians and pressure groups, by seizing on the general crisis in agriculture, are seeking to exploit it by creating the impression the whole countryside is in crisis… [such] assertions are wrong.’ (Daily Telegraph, 3 February 2000). The Prime Minister should come to Staffordshire and other counties in the midlands to see for himself how farm incomes have dropped over the last few years" adds Mr Fabricant.
Post Offices: There are 9,900 post offices in rural locations (rural locations are defined as settlements with less than 10,000 inhabitants; this is based on the definition used by the Countryside Agency). Conservatives propose to cut an average of £1,000 off the rates of post offices in rural areas; this would be in addition to any existing rate relief and would be funded by central government. Business rate reductions could take the form of increasing rate relief, reducing the multiplier or reducing rateable values.
Rural Shops: Across the 10,000 rural parishes in the country, Conservatives propose to cut rates by an average of £1,000 for small rural shops where such a shop is the last one serving a particular community. Again, this would be additional to any existing relief and financed by central government.
Rural Pubs: Conservatives will also in due course announce proposals for similar business rate reductions for rural pubs. We want to assist free trade and tenanted pubs that are under threat in rural areas.
This policy comes in advance of the Government’s much vaunted, but much delayed Rural White Paper. The Daily Telegraph (20 November 2000) reports that the Paper, that has been delayed by more than a year, will come amid
ministerial complaints that it has been ‘weakened into insignificance’.