Call to freeze business rates ‘to let firms prosper’

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ANOTHER hike in business rates would force two-thirds of stores to cut back on new jobs and investment and others to close up altogether, a survey warns.

Next year’s proposed increase of 2.6 per cent poses a “serious threat” to the High Street, according to the TaxPayers’ Alliance and British Retail Consortium.

The survey of BRC members, who represent a third of British retailers and employ 900,000 staff, says 70 per cent would make cuts, with 15 per cent saying they would be forced to close shop.

Launching a website, which people can use to lobby their MP to back the freeze, the Alliance’s chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: “High taxes are getting in the way of economic growth and a freeze is a reasonable proposal to help companies fighting their way out of the recession. Hopefully direct pressure from their constituents will encourage MPs to back action for lower rates.

“If MPs want to show that they are on the side of small businesses in their area, backing a freeze in business rates is a great way to do it.”

It comes after the Government postponed its business rates revaluation to 2017, a decision retailers say will see small businesses continuing to pay taxes against 2008 evaluations, made near the peak of the property boom.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it would protect 800,000 firms and shops from a real-terms rise. But David Cameron’s retail tsar Mary Portas called it a “tragedy for the High Street”.