Consumers are facing higher bills for their telephone and internet services after some of the country’s biggest providers were hit by major increases in their business rates today.
Figures published this morning by the Valuation Office Agency show the proposed new rates for thousands of businesses across the UK, which will come into effect from April.
One of the biggest increases in rateable values is British Telecom, whose business rates bill for England and Wales will jump from £149m to £714m next year.
“It is highly likely that an increase of this size would lead to higher prices for consumers and businesses,” the telecoms giant said.
“We are extremely disappointed by the new rateable values that have been published today and which are clearly excessive,” it added.
It warned that if the proposed new rates are brought in, “it could have a negative impact on future investment in the network”.
Tom Mockridge, chief executive of Virgin Media, whose rates quadrupled in today’s announcement, said: “The Chancellor Philip Hammond is choosing to side-step responsibility for a huge increase in infrastructure taxes at the very moment after the Brexit vote the UK needs to maximise investment into its digital fibre network.”
Offices in the City of London and the capital’s prime retail streets were hit particularly hard by the new rates set out today, with a typical store on Regent Street seeing its rates increase 50pc.
London’s business rates bill will increase by an average of 11pc, and the ‘central rating list’, which contains major network properties such as gas, water, electricity distribution, telecoms and the railways, will increase by 28pc.
Businesses were dealt a blow on Wednesday when the Government announced that the transitional relief scheme, which will help companies phase in the increases in bills, would not be as generous for large firms as first thought.
Instead of a 12.5pc cap for increases in the first year, the cap for businesses with bills of more than £100,000 is now likely to be 45pc.
Today’s figures showed that in the City of London, a typical new office building will see its bill jump from £522,000 a year to £550,000 a year, an increase of 5pc. However, for refurbished buildings, the bill will jump from £240,000 to £321,000, a jump of 34pc.
Regent Street flagship stores will see an average 50pc jump from £1.029m to £1.54m.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that the increases were “a real kick in the teeth” for London businesses: “London is the beating heart of the UK economy and the danger is that this revaluation may hamper growth at a time when the Government should be focusing its efforts on supporting business and bolstering the nation’s finances,” he warned.
“It reflects the Government’s failure to reform business rates over many years. I support business in seeking a transitional period, as any changes in bills must be phased in more slowly than the Government is planning.”