Retailers demand Chancellor to fix business rates

Over 50 major retailers have come together to demand the Government takes action to fix the broken business rates system.

In a letter to the new Chancellor, Sajid Javid, heads of major high street retailers and retail industry associations, including Retra, Dixons Carphone and John Lewis Partnership, called on the Government to put business rates at heart of the promised new economic package.

Signatures on the letter, which was coordinated by the British Retail Consortium, come from CEOs of some big UK businesses, including the likes of Asda Stores, Boots, Harrods, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, to name just a few.

Retail remains the largest private sector employer in the UK, employing approximately three million people. The industry accounts for five per cent of the UK economy, yet is burdened with 10 per cent of all business taxes, and 25 per cent of business rates.

The letter asks 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.

The letter notes that implementation of these four recommendations “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”.

“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,” said Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the BRC. “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.

“The fact that over 50 retail CEOs have come together on this issue should send a powerful message to Government.”

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