The Countryside Alliance has teamed up with Conservative MP, Andrew Rosindell, to call for the Chancellor, ahead of this month’s budget speech, to consider a wholescale review of business rate proposals, ear marked for April 2017. In a joint statement they argue that the Government’s proposals risk severely undermining the equine industry.

There statement follows the significant concerns that have been raised by the British Horse Society (BHS). BHS research shows that in many cases the amount that riding schools and livery yards pay in business rates could go up by as much as 300%. The Government has proposed that from April 2017 the threshold for small business rate relief would increase from £6,000 to £12,000. However, it is thought that 5/6 riding schools and livery yards fall well over the threshold so will not benefit. VOA figures show that the range of the increase that riding centres and livery yards will be subject to in England will be between 4-356%. The average increase for businesses is 9.6%.

Commenting upon the proposals, Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance, Sarah Lee, said:

“Initially we welcomed the Government’s proposal to increase the threshold for small business rate relief to £12,000, believing that it could provide a lifeline to many rural businesses. However, these benefits are far outweighed by rate increases that disproportionately impact rural businesses. We are particularly concerned about what the consequences of these increases could be for riding centres and livery yards.

“This is in effect a bricks and mortar tax. There are sound animal welfare reasons why riding centres and livery yards take up the space they do. It is unfair for them to be punished for promoting high animal welfare standards by following strict guidelines.”

Conservative MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell, a former Shadow Animal Welfare Minister with five riding schools in his constituency commented:

“Many might not think that the Romford constituency would have such a large number of riding centres, but it does and they form a key part of the community. They are extremely concerned about the VOA’s proposals and what they might mean for the sustainability of their business model.

“Many riding centres, including the ones in my constituency, have received funding from the Government to improve facilities in line with customers’ expectations. This has often resulted in the physical footprint of the centres being expanded. Many have added new client waiting areas, improved toilets and changing facilities. All of these new facilities are now subjected to higher business rates. In essence, what the Government gave centres in funding they are now proposing recoup in increased business rates. This makes no sense whatsoever and as an approach, it is fundamentally wrong headed.”