High Street Retailers Urge Chancellor to Fix Business Rates

Added: 15th August 2019

More than 50 major retailers have come together to urge the Government to fix the broken business rates system.

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

Signatories on the letter, which was coordinated by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), include CEOs of major supermarkets, fashion outlets and well-known high street chains, as well as industry associations.

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.”

Said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC (pictured): “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.

She added: “The fact that over 50 retail CEOs have come together on this issue should send a powerful message to Government. Retail accounts for five per cent of the economy yet pays 25 per cent of all business rates – this disparity is damaging our high streets and harming the communities they support.”

By taking swift action of these recommendations, the Chancellor “would send a clear message that the new Government understands the needs of local communities and that it will act decisively to support the jobs of the country’s largest employer”.