It is a truism that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. It is also a truism that governments shoudn’t interfere with markets, for example by taxing them, unless for very good and explicable reasons.
So it is astonishing that the government has admitted that it does not know how much money it collects from business rates on optical fibre networks.
The tax has been described as the biggest single obstacle to investment in fibre-based broadband networks. It was also the topic of a tense meeting between the govenment and invited network operators last month. And the Conservatives reneged on a pre-election promise to review the tax, So one would have thought the government was paying attention to its value to the state.
Alas. Baroness Hanham, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for the department of communities and local government (which has political control over business rates), told Lord Laird in a written reply, “We do not collect information from local authorities on how
much non-domestic rates revenue has been collected in respect of telecom
Perhaps ministers should ask themselves whether business rates on fibre is a game worth the candle, despite the budget deficit. One could well argue that since it can’t measure the effect of the tax, it has nothing to lose by lifting it.