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Published on August 13th, 2019 | by The GC Team

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Retailers sign letter to Chancellor demanding the fix of business rates

More than fifty retailers and industry associations, including Retra and the Association of Convenience Stores, have signed a letter to Chancellor Sajid Javid to demand the UK’s burdensome business rates system be fixed.

Signatories include established businesses such as Dixons Carphone and John Lewis Partnership, CEOs of major supermarkets and well-known high street chains.

The British Retail Consortium, co-ordinator of the letter, said retail remains the largest private sector employer in the UK, employing approximately three million people. The industry accounts for 5% of the UK economy, yet is burdened with 10% of all business taxes, and 25% of business rates.

The missive 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 communication also 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.”

Helen Dickinson OBE, 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 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 letter comes the day after BRC-Springboard data showed that UK Vacancy figures had risen to 10.3%, the highest since January 2015.

Andrew Hinds, Director of jewellers F Hinds said he fears for the future of market towns as many shops now have rates bills which bear no relation to the reality of trade in those locations.  

“If our local shopping areas decline then the old, the poor and country dwellers will be hugely disadvantaged as they have less access to the internet and also to city centre and out-of-town shopping centres.  

“Government must decide whether they want smaller places to thrive or to become ghost towns.”

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