Alliance Boots health and beauty chief executive Alex Gourlay has slammed the Government over its proposals to increase business rates, branding the rise as 'complete madness'.

Speaking at the Retail Week conference on Wednesday afternoon, Gourlay said that the rates increase had "not been properly thought through" and angrily condemned the government for imposing the additional costs on retailers.

"There's been a whole batch of stealth business taxes," he added. "Retailers already pay too much tax and I think it's time we let the government know that this is one tax too many."

He was speaking at a lively panel debate session which also included The Mall chief exectuve Ken Ford, who expressed similar anger over the imminent rise in business rates, due to come into effect next month.

"It's beyond belief that the the rates will increase by£1 billion when you think about the amounts that have been chucked at other less significant contributors to the GDP," he said.

Gourlay also expressed his fears that the added pressure landlords are under to fill voids could lead to a deterioration in the quality of tenant mix in shopping centres on the high street.

"I get frustrated when we have short-term tenants over Christmas and walk away after the period of highest footfall," he added. "I understand why it happens but it's frustrating and I'm afraid it's going to increase."

The panel was united in its calls on central and local government to do more to support the high street, agreeing that without this support it would continue to suffer.

"Taking a 10-year view of this we've really got to be careful about where we invest on the high street," said Gourlay.

"Unless there's a concerted effort by government to support these high streets they will be a very different place in 10 years."