Ministerial scrutiny for big rate rises facing livestock markets

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak raised the rates bill hikes facing auction marts in Parliament.
Richmond MP Rishi Sunak raised the rates bill hikes facing auction marts in Parliament.
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Eye-watering rises to business rates paid by livestock auction marts are set for ministerial scrutiny after being raised in Parliament by a Yorkshire MP.

Richmond’s Rishi Sunak told the leader of the Commons, David Lidington MP, that while marts are key to the fabric of his constituency’s rural community, their very future is threatened by the latest re-evaluation.

Hawes Auction Mart.  Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Hawes Auction Mart. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Mr Sunak called for a parliamentary debate on why rural businesses are being so unfairly penalised. Hawes Auction Mart in his constituency is one of many marts facing huge rises to their annual bill. Hawes’s bill will soar from just under £7,000 to around £26,000 after the Valuations Office Agency increased its rateable value from £14,250 to £53,000.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Sunak said: “Mr Speaker, if you visited my constituency, I would certainly take you to one of our three fabulous livestock auction markets. Alongside our livery yards and riding schools, they are key to the fabric of our rural community, yet their future is threatened by eye-watering rises in business rates. Will my right honourable Friend provide time in this House for us to debate why rural businesses are being so unfairly penalised?”

Mr Lidington replied: “The position nationally is that the business rate revaluation will, overall, benefit businesses in rural areas across England, and no small property will have an increase of more than five per cent from 1 April because of the transitional relief scheme.

“If my honourable Friend would care to write to me about the particular cases of the auction marts in his constituency, I undertake to draw them to the attention of the Communities Secretary.”

Mr Sunak met the chairman of Hawes Auction Mart, Andrew Pratt, for further talks yesterday and Mr Pratt confirmed that he was “in negotiations” with the Valuations Office Agency.

Mr Pratt is keen to reach a resolution because of how important the mart is to the community.

He said: “It’s a hub for the local rural community. Everyone comes together to do business here. We have our big breeding sheep sales in the autumn which attract farmers and businessmen from across the country and they bring people into the town. B&Bs and hotels are all full at that time of the year. It’s an extension of their tourism season. There are all sorts of knock-on effects.”

HUGE BILLS FOR OTHERS

York Auction Centre’s rateable value has increased from £145,000 to £305,000.

Auctioneer James Stephenson said: “It’s totally and utterly unrealistic, unrelated to the situation on the ground and someone should stand back and see this is unreasonable. We’ve appealed but appeals don’t get heard for years. Whether we can survive is a matter for the future. There isn’t a way we can absorb it and if we have to pass it on, our customer base will evaporate.”

Selby mart’s rateable value is £103,500, up from £35,000. Auctioneer Richard Haigh said: “It’s going to make life difficult. We’re not making an enormous profit to begin with.”