Fix business rates, high street retailers tell chancellor

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More than fifty major retailers have called on chancellor Sajid Javid to reduce the burden of business rates on high street stores which are struggling to compete with online specialists such as Amazon.

In a letter to Javid co-ordinated by the British Retail Consortium, they point out that retailers account for five per cent of the economy but pay 25 per cent of all business rates.

They are calling for four fixes that would address many of the challenges posed by business rates:

– A freeze in the business rates multiplier;

– Fixing transitional relief, which currently forces many retailers to pay more than they should;

– Introducing an ‘Improvement Relief’ for ratepayers;

– Ensuring that the Valuation Office Agency is fully resourced to do its job.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “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.

The latest BRC-Springboard study showed that UK Vacancy figures had risen to 10.3 per cent, the highest since January 2015. It also comes shortly after the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed the 12-month average sales figures dropped to their lowest level on record, at 0.5 per cent.

Richard Walker, joint managing director of Iceland Foods, said: “Business rates are an out-dated Victorian taxation system that have little relevance to our modern multi-channel retail economy. Fundamental reform of the system is the only way we will stem the decline of high street communities up and down the country.”

And Clive Lewis, chairman of River Island, said: “We welcome the BRC proposals which offer short term solutions that can introduced quickly and will have immediate benefits to the struggling retail sector. In particular, the removal of downwards transition will allow all retail businesses to pay a tax which more accurately reflects the value of their properties. The burden that rates places on all High Street businesses not only stifles growth but is a major contributor to the closure of stores and the resulting decline in towns across the country.”

Signatures include: British Retail Consortium, Ann Summers, ASDA, B&Q, BIRA, Booksellers Association, Boots UK, Card Factory, Carpetright, Central England Co-operative, Company Shop Group, Costcutter, Debenhams, Deichmann Shoes, DFS, Dixons Carphone, Dreams, F Hinds, Fenwick, Greggs, Harrods, Henderson Group, Iceland, John Lewis Partnership, Marks & Spencer, McKesson UK, New Look, Pret A Manger, Primark, Retra, Rigby & Peller, River Island, Sainsbury’s, Savers Health Home & beauty, Scottish Midland Co-operative Society, Screwfix, Spar UK, Specsavers, Steinhoff UK, Superdrug Stores, The Association of Convenience Stores, The Body Shop International, The Co-operative Group, The Hamleys Group, The Original factory Shop, The Paint Shed, The Perfume Shop, Whittard of Chelsea, WH Smith, Wm Morrison Supermarkets, Well Pharmacy.

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