An Otley business leader has joined the town’s MP in condemning “nonsensical” rates that are hampering the local economy.
The case of Wharfebank Business Centre was cited in Parliament last week as an example of how forcing companies to pay full rates on empty properties can hold back growth.
Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, Leeds North West) said current rules were “anti-growth” and drained resources, leaving companies like Wharfebank unable to renovate or modify their buildings to attract more tenants.
Now Ronnie Duncan, chairman of Wharfebank’s owners William Ackroyd (Holdings) Ltd, is calling on the Government to overhaul empty business property rates – or scrap them altogether.
He said: “The Government must look again at the current rules.
“To charge full rates on property that’s unlettable in the current economic climate is not just unfair, it damages the very core of our business, which is to regenerate our historic mill buildings to provide modernised – and sustainable – office space.
“The drain of empty rate taxation not only hampers growth but threatens essential maintenance. If empty rates can’t be abolished, then at least extend the exemption period.
“In the current economic climate, three months to re-let an office is just too short. No sooner have you spent money on renovating or adapting than you are hit with the cost of full rates on a property from which you may not have any income for the best part of the year.”
Mr Mulholland, pictured right, is calling for a Parliamentary debate on the issue. He said: “The current rules can, in some situations, be unfair and counterproductive, at a time when we need to be encouraging business to drive economic growth.
“Wharfebank, which offers wonder-ful business space in the former Otley Mills, is forced to pay full rates on its properties, even when it has no tenants and is actively seeking them.
“The rules need to be more flexible with exemptions to stop penalising responsible businesses, and these should include the renovation and maintenance of heritage premises, like Otley Mills, which are so much more costly.”