Jeremy Hunt pledges to save small businesses from rates19 Jun 2019
Jeremy Hunt has made a promise to give thousands of UK small businesses an exemption from business rates should he oust Boris Johnson in the race to be Tory leader and, ultimately, Prime Minister.
With experts warning that High Streets face the loss of 200,000 jobs, a door to canvassing opportunity has been opened for Hunt to hash out a High Street-saving plan.
To analyse what this plan would actually mean for small business owners around Britain, we’ve passed the baton to one of our accountants in London, Beata Suduiko.
Saving the High Street
In broad terms, Hunt’s plan attempts to scrap rates for nine out of ten High Street stores in a bid to preserve and revive what has historically been a thriving marketplace for small businesses in the UK.
But what does Hunt’s plan look like when figures are thrown in the mix?
Well, off the bat, those businesses who would be made exempt would save up to £6,500 in rates.
To boost business in areas beyond London, taxes on 24,500 business will be scrapped - comprised of 8,000 in Manchester, 6,000 in Leeds, 5,000 in Birmingham, 3,500 in Bristol and 2,000 in Newcastle.
Additionally, Hunt has outlined his intentions to cut corporation tax from its existing rate of 19% to as low as 12.5% - matching Ireland - in a policy shake-up that’s been costed at £13bn per year to the Treasury.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Hunt said:
“My blueprint will give a new lease of life to the British high street and give our hard working local businesses an enormous cash boost,” he said.
“It was once said Britain was a nation of shopkeepers. But if we don’t act this will no longer be the case.
“Too many small businesses are being put out of business by tax bills they can’t afford to pay.
“While many people choose to shop online, there is a clear demand for a local choice too. The current system leaves the taxpayer out of pocket, shopkeepers out of a job and can deprive local people of places to spend time with friends and family.”
Additionally, Hunt went on to speak of the Retail Discount rate and how a government under his leadership would reform the policy so that eligible businesses would see their entire rate bill wiped out.
As it stands, businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 would see their rate bill cut by 33%.
However, Hunt’s plan is built on £900m already agreed on by Philip Hammond to reduce rates, as well as a £675m cash injection to turn empty shops into cafes, community centres and new homes.
Hunt v BoJo - who will win?
The big question is, despite Hunt’s appeal to the small business community, how do his chances of landing the leadership stack up against Boris Johnson?
It’s no secret that Johnson, to date, has been a clear favourite to succeed Theresa May and secured his spot in the final two candidates with ease.
The reality is that any hope Hunt has in narrowing the gap relies on his ability to convince fellow party members that he is the best candidate for the job.
Unfortunately for Hunt, there is a reason why bookies are currently so confident about the chances of Johnson when it comes to his prospects of moving into No.10.
With 77% of Tories polling that Johnson would be a good leader, that placed him 21 points ahead of Hunt in the same poll, who scored 56% on the same topic.
However, we’ve kind of been here before.
Think 2005 - David “David” Cameron vs. David “Goliath” Davis.
Despite Davis being lined up as a clear favourite to take over from Tony Blair as Prime Minister, it was Cameron who triumphed, proposing a more moderate political approach than Davis’ further right stance.
The issue for Hunt is that outside of his party, polls are also suggesting the polls hold Johnson in higher regard.
In a recent YouGov poll, Johnson performed better on questions as wide-ranging as whether either candidate would do a good job on Brexit, would be able to win a general election or has good moral character.
Mr Johnson also stands out for his apparent ability to be able to win back voters who opted for the Brexit Party in the European elections.
In fact, the poll showed that as many as 60% of those who currently intend to vote for the Brexit Party at the next general election would be likely to vote Conservative if Johnson became leader.
Although Johnson's name recognition among the public is often held against him - as many people dislike him as like him - the same is true of Hunt who has been in government for multiple parliaments and enjoyed decidedly mixed reviews over his cutting of the NHS budget while Health Secretary.
It would seem that Johnson is well worth his short odds at this point in the race. This makes the leadership hustings crucial for Hunt if he wants to stand a chance of emerging victorious.