Lib Dems to axe business rates, Swinson says
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has said that the party would scrap business rates and instead implement a new tax on commercial landowners should they win December’s general election.
The pledge, which Swinson says will “breathe new life into high streets” by "shifting the burden from the tenant to the landlord", was revealed at a speech at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry on Monday.
Swinson said that existing rates were coming as a "crippling cost" to high street retailers striving to compete with rival online operators, adding that her party is now "the natural party of business".
The Lib Dem leader also re-affirmed her promise to stop Brexit, saying: “We believe any form of Brexit, hard or soft, blue or red, will be bad for jobs, bad for business and bad for public services.
“If you want to ‘get Brexit done’ or ‘get Brexit sorted’, you are not the party of business. With the Conservatives in the pocket of Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn stuck in the 1970s, we are the only ones standing up for you.”
There were concerns raised at the conference over whether landowners would get around the tax by simply hiking up rent, with the CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn adding that such a land value tax bill would be "mired in complexity".
Despite Fairbairn's concerns over how the proposals would "cut overall costs or provide a level playing field", she reacted warmly to Swinson's promises to "tackle climate change, improve skills and back business as a force for good", including Lib Dem proposals for a £10,000 skills fund for every English adult to spend on training, which Swinson hopes will address the longstanding skills gap.