It’s encouraging to see so many retail heavyweights behind Retail Week’s rates campaign. But one group that’s noticeable for its lack of volume is the landlords.

Of course, business rates are primarily a problem for tenants but landlords shouldn’t ignore the impact they have.

For a start, a rise in voids on high streets – to which the rates increase could become a major contributor – is the last thing landlords want given how much they are already grappling with.

The increase is due to come in just as retailers who have struggled with March’s rent payments will be throwing in the towel. April could be a very ugly month.

But forgetting for minute the number of retailers that go the wall next month, the 5 per cent increase in rates should still be enough to make landlords’ blood boil.

Retailers from overseas doing a recce of the UK will look into all the implications of opening up shop, and one of the first set of numbers they go over will be the property costs.
If the rents that they will generally be facing aren’t enough to take the spring out of their step, the business rates often are. But whether they are paying Peter or paying Paul is irrelevant - it is the overall cost that puts many off.

And this isn’t just a problem for landlords hoping to entice new retailers from abroad – it is a serious flaw in the system that at a time like this is enough to kill off otherwise healthy business interest and make existing retailers struggle to survive.

Landlords shouldn’t just wait until rates turn into empty rates to throw their hat into the ring. Their tenants are furious at the government for refusing to budge and are making their feelings known. If Chancellor Alistair Darling is going to move even one inch, it will help for him to see that it isn’t just retailers looking to save money that are against the rates increase.

The high street be a much more desolate place if the cost of occupying property there continues to rise.

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