Monday 6 March 2006 11.46pm
I'm not sure if you read my original post which referred to the "UBR rip-off". UBR (Uniform Business Rate) claims to be a charge, supposedly for 'local service provision', based upon the Inland Revenue's view of what they think is the rental value of commercial property. I did not refer to the value of my property but I did refer to the Inland Revenue's claimed rental valuation for the commercial component of my property. The two things are rather different.
The Inland Revenue increased the UBR for our studio by 2,700% in 1990, less than one year after we completed the renovation of the building. Things may be different in your part of SE1 but rental values haven't risen by 2,700% in the 16 years since 1990 and certanly didn't rise by 2,700% in the year before 1990.
Back then, my wife and I were trying very hard to get our project off the ground and this unjustified increase in UBR of 2,700% almost finished us. But we struggled on and have survived, no thanks to the Uniform Business Rate process. The building, which had supported three 'minimum wage' salaries before our ownership, supported two businesses with 15 employees after our renovation. In this regard, I'm proud of the contribution that I have made to the recovery of the local economy by renovating what was previously a derelict and dangerous building.
What this experience has shown is that the Uniform Business Rate process is nothing less than a tax upon investment, regeneration and employment. Even worse, it encourages businesses to promote the decay of their property (see the antiques warehouses on Bermondsey St and Newhams Row) to avoid UBR tax hikes. It ignores the fact that, generally speaking, lower value property puts greater pressure on local amenities than does higher value property (see Sol Beer warehouse, Bermondsey St c1994 vs Swan Court office development, 9 Tanner St).
A not unconnected effect of the introduction of UBR in 1990 was the ability of water utilities to charge commercial premises for water based upon their UBR valuation and not upon actual use of water (something that the Thatcher government wrote into the water privitisation legislation). In our case, that translated into Thames Water charging us £1,500 per annum for water services. When they refused to install water meters we were forced to install our own and, surprise surprise, our water charges, based upon actual consumption, fell by 82%. This little bung (about £1,350pa in our case) translated into the water utilities trousering some £1.2bn per annum in overcharging in England and Wales, thanks to the generousity of the Thatcher administration. Something that certainly didn't harm the privitisation process.
Anyway, sorry to have rambled on a bit but I did want to clear up what I felt was your misunderstanding of my observations.
Regards and best wishes
PS Marx had something interesting to say about 'value'. He thought that a lettuce leaf always made a better meal than a plate of 'value' and I agree.