Retailers are poised to slash investment and make redundancies if next year’s proposed business rates hike goes ahead.

Some 60% of small and medium-sized retailers – widely regarded as vital to the health of the high street – will cut back on investment in stores.

More than 40% will be forced to reduce staff numbers and hours because of the increased burden, which is due to come into force in April, a survey conducted by BRC member organisations showed.

More than 80% said that another rates rise will make their business less viable.

Business rates are to rise by 2.6% in April, piling an extra £175m cost on retailers, on top of the £500m that has already been paid by the sector in the past two years.

Chancellor George Osborne will issue his Autumn Statement next week but it is unlikely any change will be announced then.

Almost 2,000 people have already written to their MPs urging for a business rates freeze next year as part of the Retail Week and BRC Fair Rates for Retail campaign, which is also backed by many big retailers.