The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has abandoned its call to the Government to freeze business rates.
In a letter seen by Retail Week, BRC director general Helen Dickinson stated that the BRC will instead urge the Government to impose a 2% cap on next year’s business rates increase.
This would align the BRC’s stance with the CBI, which in March called on the Government to restrict any rates increase to 2%.
In a u-turn by the BRC, Dickinson said that the trade association had changed its position on a freeze because it would have to be applied across all sectors and not just on retail property. Such a freeze would cost the Treasury almost £1bn in year one, which Dickinson called “an unrealistic task”.
Dickinson said: “As we know you would not want us to be silent on business rates changes in the short term, we will align ourselves with the call for a cap as well as promoting our reform objective.”
She added: “Our main, medium-term objective is to secure solid commitments at a political and official level to reform business rates. We aim to achieve this by marshalling a range of arguments demonstrating that the current system is no longer fit-for-purpose, damaging to our High Streets and Town Centres and that it inhibits the sector’s ability to invest, create jobs and drive growth.”
Dickinson added that the BRC is gathering evidence to develop recommendations for changing the business rates system in the long term, which will be unveiled in early spring. She added: “Our goal is to have moved HM Treasury from its current intransigent stance to one which is receptive to the idea of reform”.
Business rates are viewed as one of the most crippling issues facing the retail sector due to the pressure they put on investment and growth.
Over the past three years business rates have surged, adding more than £500m on to retailers’ rates bills.
Last year the BRC and Retail Week called for a freeze on business rates through the Fair Rates for Retail campaign. However, the rates rise went ahead, increasing 2.6%, adding around £175m to retailers’ rates bills.