Chief executives from more than 50 retailers have written to the chancellor calling for action on business rates reform, after it emerged that over £500m has been lost in transitional relief since 2017.

Leaders from diverse high street retailers including Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Ikea and Greggs have all co-signed a letter written by chief executive of the British Retail Consortium Helen Dickinson, calling on the government to fix business rates ahead of the Budget in March.

The letter noted that the business rates system is broken and has become “unsustainable for many retailers”.

It said that “fundamental reform is needed in the medium term” and that in the short term “to meet its ambition to level up every part of England would be by removing downwards phasing of transitional relief”.

The call came after it emerged that since being introduced in 2017, transitional relief has cost the sector £543m by forcing retail to subsidise other industries.

According to the BRC, it has also forced locations outside of London to subsidise businesses in the capital to the tune of £596m over the past three years.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The future of retail is an issue that matters to people everywhere – it employs three million people and serves the needs of the entire country. Yet transitional relief undermines both the industry as a whole and many regions that it serves.

“Northern high streets effectively subsidise London banks, forcing a £600m transfer of wealth to the capital; this could be used to support investment in people and technology that would benefit all parts of the UK.

“Every year retail faces higher and higher business rates bills, holding back much needed investment in an industry that is transforming at a dramatic pace. Swift action at the upcoming Budget would show the chancellor was serious about levelling up all parts of the UK and supporting a retail industry towards realising a brighter future.”