William Eichler 13 August 2019

High street retailers call for reform of ‘broken’ business rates

Over 50 high street retailers have signed a letter calling on Chancellor Sajid Javid to reform the business rates system.

Coordinated by the British Retail Consortium, the letter urges the Chancellor to freeze the business rates multiplier and ‘fix’ transitional relief, which they argue forces many retailers to pay more than they should.

The BRC letter, which was signed by CEOs of supermarkets, food-to-go, fashion, homeware, and department store retailers, also called for the introduction of an ‘Improvement Relief’ for ratepayers.

It also said the Valuation Office Agency, the Government body responsible for giving the Treasury the valuations and property advice needed to support taxation and benefits, is fully resourced to do its job.

Implementation of these four recommendations, the letter argues, ‘could be undertaken quickly, would reduce regional disparities, remove barriers to the proper working of market forces, incentivise economic investment, and cut away at least some of the bureaucracy of the current system.’

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, pointed out that retail accounts for 5% of the economy yet pays 25% of all business rates – a disparity that is ‘damaging our high streets and harming the communities they support.’

‘These four fixes would be an important step to reform the broken business rates system which holds back investment, threatens jobs and harms our high streets,’ she said.

‘The new Government has an opportunity to unlock the full potential of retail in the UK, and the Prime Minister’s economic package provides a means to do so.’

A Government spokesperson said: 'Last month, the Prime Minister announced a £3.6bn Towns Fund to support our high streets and town centres, allowing them to attract greater footfall, jobs and investment.

'The Chancellor will announce further details of the Government’s policy programme in the coming weeks and months.'

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