Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Port Rate Policy Favours Shipping Warehouse Operations

Coalition Wins Friends By Delivering Policy
Shipping News Feature

UK – Following our story last month outlining the new coalition government’s intention to suspend the previous administration’s Port Rates policy, comes news that the move is already having beneficial effects amongst freight and portside shipping tenants. According to a press release from the Department for Communities and Local Government this week, admittedly hardly a neutral source, the new tax freeze has been warmly welcomed by those affected.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill met with representatives from the port-based businesses affected by retrospective business rate charges to explain details of the scheme to suspend payments. The minister heard first hand how many port-based businesses were already benefiting from the moratorium with renewed confidence being shown by overseas companies. Mr Neil also reaffirmed his commitment to press for a fair, long term solution.

Last week as an urgent first step to meeting the Coalition Agreement commitment, new regulations were introduced suspending unexpected backdated business rate payments, including for port companies, giving a lifeline to struggling firms and supporting a vital part of Britain's manufacturing industry.

Many ports companies in England were left facing unexpected and significant backdated business rates bills totalling millions of pounds following a ports review completed by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) in 2008 that revised many bills. The devastating effects of the change were highlighted in our article of March illustrating how the whims of one mismanaged government department and the intransigent attitude of the local councils cost jobs and closed firms.

Speaking of his meeting Bob Neill said:

"I was pleased to meet with representatives of ports businesses, and from what I’ve heard today it is clear to me that we’ve made the right decision.

"The payments freeze implemented last week has given businesses room to breathe, and they are already feeling the benefit. But these are just the first steps - I am committed to finding a fair, long term solution, and we will continue to work hard to make this happen.”

Andrew Finfer a partner with Schofield Sweeney Solicitors and long time legal adviser to the businesses campaigning for fair port rates said:

"We are extremely grateful to Mr Neill for acting so promptly to resolve this critical problem facing the ports industry.

"The mere fact that the matter is set to be resolved has already provided much needed certainty for port-based companies, with the result that overseas companies have more confidence to do business and jobs have already been saved.

"We look forward to working with the minister and the department to finally resolve this matter."