Dear Editor, Very soon a daylight robbery is going to take place in the name of creating competition, by bringing more industrial and commercial properties onto the market place.
Government is both penalising and punishing the owners of such properties.
For those of you who are not aware, let me put you in the picture. As from April 2008, all unoccupied industrial and commercial properties will be charged full business rates.
There is hardly any small industry left, especially in the engineering and textile sector, there is also little market for the small repair workshops and storage units. The demand for such premises is dropping and those that are occupied pay minimum rents.
These units are often situated in the most run-down areas of the city and it is increasingly harder to maintain occupancy. The ratio between investment and return is currently uneconomical and today there are many examples of part rental of premises and now owners will have to pay full rates for the unoccupied parts of their properties.
The truth is that business rates are often higher than the rents. I will quote the argument given by the Government to justify their so-called reforms: "To provide a strong incentive to bring empty properties back into use... help increase the supply of premises to let and so reduce business rents."
It is a joke and is blackmailing in the name of creating a market economy at the cost of small businesses. The end result will be to force property owners to demolish their property and give it on the plate to the big property developers.
If the Government is really intent on bringing more commercial and industrial properties onto the market it should look to abolish or reduce the business rates. This will encourage occupancy by small and already struggling businesses.
The Government has failed to do its homework or research the impact such compulsory charges will have on property owners in terms of closures, hard-ships and bankruptcies.
It appears that the Government has only one aim, to raise taxes and to invent new excuses irrespective of the consequences.
Approaching Government is simply a waste of time in today's climate. It appears honesty and politics are incompatible.
PRITHVI CHOPRA, Chairman, Asian Business Forum
* Country before party
Dear Editor Congratulations to the group of West Midlands MPs - Roger Godsiff, Lynne Jones, Gisella Stewart (all Labour) and John Hemming (Lib Dem) - who voted with the Conservatives to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which is 90 per cent the same as the European Constitution.
Well done to them in following their party's election commitment and for putting their constituents and the country before party politics.
But where does that leave Lorely Burt? By abstaining, she helped this disgraceful Government break the promise they made that voters would decide this issue. No doubt Ms Burt will be rewarded by her boy leader Nick "Calamity" Clegg, but what about the voters in her Solihull constituency?
Wait till the next election, and then she'll find out.
GRAHAM JUNIPER, Hampton-in-Arden
* What kind of freedom for Iraq?
Dear Editor, With the cost of freedom and democracy in Iraq spiralling out of control for the British taxpayer, we need to know just what the Iraqi people are getting for our money.
No doubt we are paying for the reconstruction of homes destroyed by New Labour's "smart bombs" (and rightly so), and compensation to families who have lost loved ones to those same smart bombs - a large proportion then to ease the conscience of those that used a sledge hammer to crack a nut.
I wonder what the Iraqi people will think when they feel the full brunt of New Labour's version of freedom and democracy? I don't think they will be too happy when they are banned from smoking in their coffee houses and meeting places and stopped from taking part in their centuries old tradition of hunting with hounds.
I wish the Iraqi people all best for the future.
DANNY KEANEY, Stratford-upon-Avon
* An alternative to the M6
Dear Editor, If I have understood things correctly, the widening of the M6 to the north is regarded more or less as a dead letter and the planners have reached "point non plus".
We tend to think in terms of the traffic on the M6 as heading towards Manchester, but I suspect quite a significant percentage from the West Midlands heading north goes to Merseyside and its Docks. I wonder, therefore, if any consideration has been given to dualing the A41 to Chester? This may prove a far cheaper option without making such an adverse impact on the environment, and relieve pressure on the existing M6.
TIM RYAN, By email
* Support for our forces
Dear Editor, Last week I attended an appeal on behalf of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), to raise funds for the acquisition and management of a house to provide short-term accommodation for visiting families and relations of injured service personnel receiving treatment at Selly Oak Military Hospital.
It is not a particularly well known fact, but for some time now seriously injured British military personnel have been airlifted from war zones into Birmingham International Airport and taken to Selly Oak to receive the necessary surgery and attention to their wounds and condition.
Selly Oak is a vital link in the process to give our troops top class attention in the shortest possible recovery cycle from the point of their injuries. It is of course funded by the MoD, but the defence authorities do not provide any form of accommodation for those relatives and families who are called on to visit the injured personnel.
Like others, I have been aware of this situation for some time and earlier visited the hospital through the offices of the Commandant and saw the limited facilities which are available on site. While concern has been express around this and various ideas to help have been discussed, the one worthwhile and tangible effort to provide appropriate accommodation for those visiting relatives is to be established through SSAFA.
SSAFA has recently opened a first home at Hedley Court, near Ashford in Surrey, to support the medical facilities there and are in the course of securing a house for Selly Oak for the same purpose.
These accommodations are very much on similar lines to those which have been established around American military hospitals to provide close and comfortable surroundings for those relatives having to see and support their badly injured family member.
I strongly commend the SSAFA's efforts and I believe that they will rapidly establish a worthwhile facility. They do, however, need additional funding and are only three parts of the way to being able to fund and operate the two homes.
I believe that the people from Birmingham from both the business and general community should step in to support this project, and that our soldiers, sailors and airmen who are rehabilitated to Birmingham should be aware that the people of the city have supported them in this way.
My own charitable foundation has contributed and I would be pleased to assist and advise any other parties who are prepared to further contribute, or they should contact SSAFA direct.
Sir PETER RIGBY, Specialist Computer Holdings