West Norfolk budget concern over tax rise for self-employed

Chancellor Philip Hammond
Chancellor Philip Hammond

Urgent reforms of the business rates system are still needed despite relief measures announced in the Budget, according to West Norfolk business leaders.

Concerns have also been raised about plans to raise National Insurance contributions for self-employed workers, which were announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond on Wednesday.

Mr Hammond said he would provide £435 million of relief for firms affected by rises in business rates, including a £300 million hardship fund.

Darren Taylor, chairman of Lynn’s town centre partnership, said: “Any relief for small businesses, particularly, town centre businesses, would be welcome.”

But he said he was still “nervous” of the rates being used as a means to generate large amounts of revenue.

Norfolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive Caroline Williams added: “However welcome, the measures that mitigate the short-term impact of business rate rises, are little more than a sticking plaster. In the longer-term, fundamental change is needed.”

Most of the criticism of the Budget was reserved for Mr Hammond’s decision to raise National Insurance contributions for the self-employed, to bring them more into line with the rates paid by employees.

Mr Taylor said he was worried about the implications of the measure for small firms, particularly those who are just starting out.

Miss Williams said: “Ministers need to ensure that these business people, who make a significant contribution to the economy, also get the recognition and benefits that correspond to their contribution.”

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “I am delighted by the further support for business, particularly our great local pubs.”

She also welcomed the promise of an extra £2 billion for adult social care.

But Labour MEP Alex Mayer accused Mr Hammond of “burying his head in the sand” over the risks posed by Brexit.

She said: “This is not a thought-out plan for a country on the brink.”