INDEPENDENT retailers in Henley say they are being held back by excessive business rates.
More than a dozen traders raised the issue with Henley MP John Howell during a meeting at Liz Felix Millinery in Reading Road, on Monday.
The Government is reviewing the business rates system amid complaints that it puts a disproportionate strain on small businesses.
Mr Howell said he wanted to hear the traders’ concerns so he could pass them on to Chancellor George Osborne before next year’s Budget.
Many businesses argued they should receive some kind of service in return, such as regular rubbish collections.
Others felt the charge should be based on ability to pay, taking into account factors such as profit, turnover and number of employees.
At the moment it is based on the rateable value of a trader’s unit, which in turn is based on a government formula linked to its market rental value.
Laurence Morris, who owns Laurence Menswear in Duke Street, said: “The threshold for small business rate relief should be increased. It’s currently £18,000 in Henley but £25,500 in London.
“I’m not classed as a ‘small business’ here but I would be in the capital, which is mad.
“There should also be a sliding scale of exemptions for independent businesses to get them off the ground.
“Those early years are a critical period for small businesses but not for chains. A temporary discount would give them a chance to grow.”
Mr Howell said: “The last time I held a meeting about rates our feedback helped to secure a £1,000 discount for small businesses.
“It was a very productive evening that brought forth a lot of interesting ideas. These suggestions are just the sort of thing the Chancellor wants to hear.”