The Government has come under fire this week for adding to retailers’ business rate burdens.

In a report, the British Retail Consortium has called on the Government to immediately freeze all new business rates and reverse its policy on empty property relief, which was axed in April last year.

The report, Rates Debate: A Fair Deal for Retail, has been timed to coincide with discussions taking place in the House of Commons today over the new Business Rates Supplement Bill.

BRC policy officer Tom Ironside said: “The Government seems to have made the situation worse, not better. On top of the changes that would have occurred anyway we’ve also got the rates revaluation, which is being done on the basis of questionable statistics. The idea is to ensure greater fairness."

The BRC said the additional costs heaped on retailers from various government actions – including business rates revaluation, the end of empty property rate relief and extra business rates supplements – could amount to an additional£1.6bn on the 2007/08 figure.

Ironside said: “There’s a strong case for [the Government] to be looking at easing the burdens they are placing on retailers at the same time as more positive measures."

The BRC pointed out that retailers’ heavy exposure to property places a disproportionate burden on the industry. Retailers pay 25 per cent of overall business rates despite representing only 8 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.