Treasury Consultation on Business Rates: speak now or shut up

The Treasury Consultation on the Administration of Business Rates gives a long overdue opportunity for those who believe that innovative broadband suppliers are unfairly treated.

I have blogged regularly on the way in which the business rates system penalises the competitors to BT and how this has come about: a tone list based on fictional costs and hypothetical revenues deterring investment in local alternative infrastructures, while BT’s rates bill was coming down .

It was only today that I learned of the impact of SI 2008/2333 , which reduces BT’s rates bill every time a line is unbundled. This is indeed odd, given the revenue that Openreach derives from unbundled lines. More-over no impact assessment was produced because “no impact on the private or voluntary sectors is foreseen”. This is odder still, given that the SI was drafted (within DCLG), signed by the Minister (one can imagine what he was told albeit an FoI request is said to have failed to find any record of this) and approved by Parliament while the Vtesse Case was winding its way through the courts.  So much for joined-up Government. 

However, enough of the past.

This consultation is an opportunity to not only expose current inequities and iniquities but to suggest ways forward that will help pull through investment in alternative networks and end discrimination against the “hot standby” routings that are essential for a society that is critically dependent on robust and resileint communications.

Remember the rules:

Read the Examination Paper
Answer the Questions Set

and release your answers, together with the reasons for them, to the press at the same time as you submit them to HM Treasury.

This is very political consultation. Those who keep silent will get stitched up. Those who make a good case for constructive change may well get what they ask for – especially if it leads to increased investment (and thus taxable revenues) at no net cost to the Treasury.