Expect UK business rates 17th in importance in election
Expect UK business rates 17th in importance in election
18 NOVEMBER 2019 8:16 AM

British voters will go to the polls for a general election for the third time in 54 months, but businesses hoping High Street rates will be a major discussion point might be disappointed behind the noise of Brexit.

Just a little more than two years since United Kingdom voters went to the polls for a general election, we are all trooping back for another go, on 12 December, the first December general election since 1923, when all were still battered by the Great War and six years before the Great Depression.

I tease my Italian wife that her country has general elections every 12 weeks, but that is not true anymore, and the U.K. has become the new Italy, with this election being our third in four and a half years.

The election is and will be dominated by Brexit, with concerns and policies on the National Health Service also raising their voices. This is a shame as issues such as business rate likely will not get the attention they deserve.

Business rates are a real weight to many, as they are calculated on the size and value of properties, not the real-time success of those businesses’ profit-and-loss accounts. As economies falter, these rates become more onerous.

Expect clarity—and perhaps some anger—from next week’s launch of U.K. industry forum UKHospitality’s General Election manifesto, in which CEO Kate Nicholls will state what the organization wants the political parties to keep front of mind as they try and win hearts and minds.

Getting business rates part of the discussion is a tall order when many regard this election as one more pause between nothing much happening over the U.K.’s future, in or out, of the European Union. The ruling Conservative Party hopes for a sizable majority—it currently does not have one—to help push through its Brexit majority, but many experts believe the 2019 issue of our Uncertain Kingdom will not provide one for any party.

I do not remember any general election involving the degree of brinkmanship currently evident, with parties making agreements not to stand prospective Member of Parliaments in certain constituencies in hope of not splitting the vote and allowing a third candidate of dubious political stance to squeeze through and win.

The Conservatives have announced there would be an extension of the retail discount on business rates to 50% next year and a £1,000 ($1,285) business-rate relief for individual pubs, but it is the nature of U.K. elections that manifestoes are not published until three or four weeks before polling day, so we do not know for sure.

Chances are all parties will either say they will cut business rates or will promise to review them, the usual guff in a run-up to an election. Hotels, except perhaps very small ones, might not see too much of anything considering the desire to travel and the huge, resultant tax amount that brings in.

Expect the real details soon, at which point I do not have to be political, and readers can just compare the parties’ published promises with UKHospitality’s line and make their own minds up.

Hostel hotel comes up trumps
I was in Hanoi, Vietnam, last week for only a few hours, transitioning between Mai Chau to the south and the airport for home.

I had been in Hanoi the previous week for three days to enjoy its madness, people, food and sights, but on the way back, only for a matter of hours.

On the small bus back to Hanoi, my wife and I met two other travelers, and we shared a cab from the point where the bus dropped us off to the hostel these two women were staying in.

The hostel—Little Charm Hanoi Hostel—did not blink when I asked if we could leave our luggage with them for 150 minutes. There was no question of there being a charge for this. The receptionist—taking care with colleagues of a busy environment of check-ins, information-seekers, guests and café visitors—immediately asked if she could organize our taxi transportation, which she did.

This was done with efficiency and sweetness, and I want to mention it and them.

The hostel’s motto displayed behind the counter is “Where the little things mean everything,” and for once, those words did equate with actions.

Good show all round.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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