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Report by Laura Chesters

ANTIQUES dealers are braced for a massive increase in business rates when bills arrive in April.

Shop owners in London and the south of England, where property prices have continued to rise, will be hardest hit.

Matthew Hall, director at Panter & Hall, says his business faces a 33% rise in rates at its Pall Mall gallery and a 22% increase at its Cecil Court premises. The total bill will rise to £90,000.

He said: “I can’t believe a Tory government is doing this. It is an anti-capitalist policy to raise rates so high as it really hits small businesses.

“We are a mid-range gallery selling paintings at under £20,000. We have to sell an awful lot of paintings to cover our costs.”

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, the “average rateable value” of a property in London exceeds the next closest region (the south-east) by around £23,000. Only businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or less are able to apply for relief.

‘Fair and proportionate’

Tim Bryars, an antiquarian book and map dealer in Cecil Court, central London, said: “We are not screaming for special favours. We are not grumbling about paying tax. But the tax should be fair and proportionate. If businesses were taxed on profit, rather than shop space, it would give us freedom to invest.”

He added: “I am paying more than £300 a year for every metre of shelving I own. It now costs me money to have a £10 book on the shelf.”

Bryars said he could be forced to focus away from lowerpriced stock.

Mark Field, MP for Cities of London & Westminster, said: “The shopkeepers on Cecil Court are essentially excluded from the Chancellor’s assistance package as they occupy premises with rateable values over £12,000.

“One bookseller on the ancient alley told me that his rateable value is £21,250. We need rate relief for London’s independent businesses.”

The impact is not just in London. Mike Golding of Cotswolds’ Huntington Antiques in Stow-on-the-Wold, said at the previous review, business rates increased in the area by more than 80% and he is “waiting with trepidation” for news of the latest rethink.

He said: “Business rate rises have had a detrimental effect on antiques shops in the Cotswolds. The number of major dealers in this town has halved since 2008.”