Fifty-plus retailers sign letter demanding Chancellor fixes business rates

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WHSmith and The Booksellers Association were among 50 retailers to sign an open letter addressed to new Chancellor Sajid Javid, calling on the Government to overhaul the ‘broken’ business rates system.


The letter was co-ordinated by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and signed by retail bosses across the sector, including supermarkets, fashion, homeware and department stores, as well as stationery, gift and book sellers.


The letter points out to the Chancellor that retail is the largest UK private-sector employer, employing around 3m people. It goes on to say that while the industry is responsible for 5% of the UK economy, it is burdened with 10% of all business taxes and 25% of business rates.


The signatories to the letter spell out four ‘fixes’ that would help resolve the problems the current business rates system poses.


  • Implement a freeze in the business rates multiplier, set by the government and adjusted annually in line with inflation.


  • Address the problem of transitional relief, which currently forces many retailers to pay more than they should.


  • Introduce an ‘improvement relief’ for ratepayers


  • Ensure the Valuation Office Agency is sufficiently resourced to carry out its job effectively.


BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson called the current business rates regime “broken,” adding that it “holds back investment, threatens jobs and harms our high streets.”


Dickinson commented: “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.”


The letter came a day after BRC-Springboard data showed that UK Vacancy figures had risen to 10.3%, 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%.

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