Retail industry trade bodies the BRC and Revo have called for urgent reform of the business rates system as Bill Grimsey’s second high street review was published.
The BRC demanded a two-year freeze on business rates increases and said “fundamental reform of the business rates system is needed and must be considered as part of a wholesale modernisation of business taxation”.
Retail property organisation Revo maintained: “The Government must act now to reform the punitive business rates system, which is squeezing the life out of many town centres and high streets.”
The pair spoke out as Bill Grimsey published an updated version of his high street review, in which he set out ideas to improve the health of town centres including replacing the punitive business rates regime.
The BRC said that retail industry makes up 5% of the economy and pays nearly 25% of the overall business rates bill, over £7bn per year.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The current business rates system is not fit for purpose. It is a 20th century answer to a 21st century problem.
“Retail shoulders far more than its fair share, and the rates bill is leading to store closures and getting in the way of reinvention of our high streets.
“The BRC is calling on government to freeze business rates until the 2021 revaluation to relieve the burden of this unfair tax on retail businesses and allow time for dialogue about the wholesale modernisation of business taxation.”
‘Years of inaction’
Revo said that “years of government inaction has exacerbated the impact on towns and high streets”.
Revo chief executive Ed Cooke said: “We agree with many, if not all, of Bill’s recommendations, but in truth it is time for less talk and more action.
“In 2013 we led a Government-supported Taskforce on the future of high streets and the challenges were the same then as they are now. The only difference is, as a result of successive governments kicking the can down the road, the problems facing many town centres and high streets have become more acute.
“The Government must act now to reform the punitive business rates system, which is squeezing the life out of many town centres and high streets.
“Only then can we properly address the oversupply of retail space in many places, and create more diverse urban environments by adding homes, workspace, leisure uses and civic services.”
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Retail industry associations demand business rates reform