Business rate reform crucial to saving the High Street and Levelling Up the UK - CBI boss

The Government’s ambitions of levelling up the country will not work if it does not urgently commit to reform of business rates, the boss of CBI has claimed.

Tony Danker told The Yorkshire Post that reforming the tax, commonly levelled at the retail sector and worth tens of billions of pounds per year was the number one priority of the CBI’s 190,000 members - particularly for those based in the North of England.

He added that a revival of the British High Street was not viable under the current business rate system and that it was “no longer acceptable of the Treasury to ignore” these concerns.

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Reports suggested this week that Chancellor Rishi Sunak did not intend to mention business rates during his Budget speech on October 27.

Hull city centre

However, Mr Danker said he believed “radical reform” was needed.

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“It is a particularly high priority of members in the north, which is why I think the Red Wall MPs have come out so vociferously about it,” he said.

“That is because you can’t reach the Government’s ambition of having pride in places in the Levelling Up white paper, if what you have got is failing high streets. It is frankly conservative with a small ‘c’ and being reactionary to sustain the current business rate regime.

High streets a key part of levelling up.

“Half of business investment in this country is subject to business rates and our rates way higher than anybody else in the world. We can’t expect revival of high streets, local places and business investment to go forward with the current business rate system.

“It needs to be radically reformed. And I think it is no longer acceptable of the Treasury to ignore that fact.”

Mr Danker also sounded the alarm of a cumulative impact of tax rises on British business. Corporation Tax is set to rise from 19 to 25 per cent in April 2023, and while the CBI chief said British business was willing to pay its share in pulling the UK economy out of the pandemic-induced recession, he held concerns on taxation constraining growth.

“If you add National Insurance and add lack of reform on business rates, business taxation is at a counter productive levels and becoming a block on investment.

“Our members are incredibly concerned that our taxation levels are leaving us none competitive internationally and far from incentivising investment and growth.”