The fight against increases to riding centres’ business rates has gone to the highest level of the government, as the chancellor of the exchequer has asked for details of their effect on the industry.
As a result of the British Horse Society’s (BHS) long-running campaign against changes to businesses’ rateable values, from which the rates are calculated, BHS chief operating officer Sarah Phillips met chancellor Philip Hammond in March.
The BHS has now launched a survey, which it is urging all riding centres to fill in, to collect evidence of the impact the rate increase is having.
“The chancellor was receptive and understood our concerns,” Ms Phillips told H&H.
“He was talking about the rate relief that’s in place, and additional relief available, but while those I’m sure support some businesses, they’re not always useful for riding schools.
“He asked if there was a problem, why weren’t businesses appealing. We said some are, so he asked us to collect data.
“If people have appealed successfully, that could demonstrate that the whole business rates process for that element is flawed.”
Ms Phillips said that in response to the chancellor’s request for information, the survey has been created and sent to all BHS- approved riding schools, but the more people who complete it, the stronger the evidence will be when it is presented to the chancellor.
“People are absolutely struggling and this is make or break for them,” she added.
“Riding schools are closing and we know that once that happens, they don’t come back, then people won’t have the chance to learn to ride as we did.”
The BHS also made Mr Hammond aware of the impact on competition centres and possible repercussions for elite sport in the UK.
“It’s not just riding schools and ponies,” Ms Phillips said.
“If every business appeals and is successful, or a large proportion are successful, it would imply the way the rates are applied is wrong.
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“But if we don’t have the evidence, we can’t continue with the campaign. Gathering the data helps us keep up the pressure and keep lobbying. That’s why we need people to complete the survey, so we can campaign on their behalf.
“The more evidence we can collect, the stronger our voice.”
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