The BRC has been banging the drum for a business rates freeze for several years now. We’ve worked hard with campaign partners but we’ve reached a point where we felt a rethink was needed.
The BRC has been banging the drum for a business rates freeze for several years now. We’ve worked hard with campaign partners – particularly Retail Week - and others across the industry, and while it’s helped to keep the issue riding high in the headlines, we reached a point where we felt a rethink was needed.
The decision to refocus the BRC’s campaigning activity on business rates wasn’t one that we took lightly or in haste, but one based on extensive research and consultation with members. And far from making a u-turn, we’re actually stepping up a gear, by refocusing our energies on what we think will deliver the biggest long-term benefits for retailers and the communities they serve.
There have been numerous conversations on the issue, but one key turning point was recognising that £1bn - the estimated annual cost to the Treasury for applying a freeze across all business rates payers – felt like an unrealistic ask. With that in mind, we shifted to exploring how we push for the greater goal of long term reform.
BRC members have told me loud and clear that the rates system is unfit for purpose, and fundamentally out of step with the way the industry operates in the 21st Century. Getting it right once and for all will be a complex and lengthy exercise, but it’s one which will deliver far greater gains in the long run.
A freeze is an admirable aspiration, but even if there was one, it wouldn’t be enough to address the significant impact that business rates are having on local jobs, town centres and communities. We have broad consensus from our members that this is a system which needs a comprehensive healthcheck, not just a short-term sticking plaster.
Making the case for reform is our longer term objective, but while we step up these efforts we’ll also be joining calls for a cap on business rates. Our members wouldn’t want us to be silent in the short term, and we think that this is a realistic and achievable ask which will ease some pressure while the details of what reform will look like are being worked through.
There are some weighty tasks ahead, but we’re confident that we’ve listened to members and that we’re channelling our energies towards what will deliver the biggest difference in the long term. Business rates have threatened the health of our town centres for too long – we need to seize the chance to sort out this outdated system before it does even more damage.
- Helen Dickinson is the director general of the British Retail Consortium