Fourteen leading business representative groups and industry bodies have jointly written to the Welsh Finance Minister asking her to freeze the business rate in the coming financial year.

The 14 organisations represent a broad cross section of Welsh industry and commerce, including retailers, manufacturers, tourism, leisure, and commercial property.

The collective call comes ahead of the unveiling of the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget on 19 December, which is expected to set the business rate and associated reliefs and thresholds for the 2024-25 financial year.

The Welsh business rate is already at a 24-year high and a fifth higher than at the start of the previous decade, it also remains higher than anywhere else in Great Britain. If increased in line with current CPI inflation this could see ratepayers across Wales face an extra £80 million on their rates bills from next Spring.

The joint letter from the business representative and trade bodies was submitted to Rebecca Evans, the Welsh Government’s Finance Minister, earlier this week. The text of the letter was:

Dear Finance Minister,
We are writing jointly ahead of the Welsh Budget to ask that you do not increase the multiplier rate in the coming financial year.
We fully recognise that the Welsh Government, like business, is facing its own costs and inflationary pressures at the present time. We welcome the support your Government has afforded our sectors over recent years with the freezing of the multiplier, and with rates support for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. And the forthcoming Reforming Local Government Finance Bill will hopefully address some of the challenges we face from a broken business rates system.

Yet, after three and a half turbulent years of the pandemic and costs crunch the fact is trading conditions remain challenging, the cost of doing business remains elevated, and the near-term economic outlook is weak. We therefore ask that Welsh Ministers freeze the headline business rate multiplier – which is already at a 24-year high and the highest in Great Britain - in the coming financial year. This would aid firms with the costs crunch, help them keep down prices for customers, and support business investment and competitiveness.

Our organisations have a range of ideas on how the Welsh rates system could be improved. However, we collectively believe this practical measure to freeze the business rate requires to be taken in your upcoming Welsh Budget, which would be a positive step applicable to all commercial premises, help ease the burden at this difficult time, and support our shared objective of delivering more sustainable economic growth.

Yours sincerely,

1. Sara Jones, Welsh Retail Consortium
2. Debbie Bryce, West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce
3. Phil Clapp, UK Cinema Association
4. Ben Cottam, FSB Cymru
5. David Chapman, UK Hospitality Cymru
6. Suzy Davies, Wales Tourism Alliance
7. Andrew Goodacre, British Independent Retailers Association
8. Meryl Halls, Booksellers Association
9. David Harries, Food and Drink Federation Cymru
10. Melanie Leech, British Property Federation
11. James Lowman, Association of Convenience Stores
12. Ian Price, CBI Cymru
13. Joanne Price, IOD Cymru
14. Janis Richards, Make UK