Bosses of the Britain’s biggest retailers have urged chancellor Sajid Javid to commit to a sizeable reform of the business rate system.
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In a letter signed by more than 50 top retail leaders, the current system of business rates is described as “broken” with Mr Javid warned that urgent reform is needed to reduce regional disparities and safeguard jobs.
Among those lending their support to the move, spearheaded by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), are Asda president and CEO Roger Burnley, Card Factory CEO Karen Hubbard, DFS CEO Tim Stacey and Morrisons CEO David Potts.
They argue that retail and the three million people it employs is particularly exposed to the disruption a no deal Brexit would bring and say that, while the industry is responsible for five per cent of the UK economy, it is weighed down with 10 per cent of all business taxes and 25 per cent of business rates.
One extract, seen by The Yorkshire Post, reads: “The likelihood of a no-deal Brexit appears to be increasing, which we believe would place a considerable strain on retailers in the UK.
“In this context, the Prime Minister’s intention to pursue an economic package to boost business and investment in the UK is crucially important; we strongly believe that reform of the broken business rates system should be front and centre of that package.
"This outdated tax is hindering our plans for investment, holding back productivity growth and detrimentally impacting communities up and down the country.”
The letter asks for a number of measures to address this, including a freeze in the business rates multiplier, fixing transitional relief (which they claim currently forces retailers to pay more than they should), introducing an ‘Improvement Relief’ for ratepayers and ensuring that the Valuation Office Agency is fully resourced to do its job.
The letter notes that implementation of these four recommendations “could be undertaken quickly, would reduce regional disparities, remove barriers to the proper working of market forces, incentives economic investment, and cut away at least some of the bureaucracy of the current system.”
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “These four fixes would be an important step to reform the broken business rates system which holds back investment, threatens jobs and harms our high streets. The new Government has an opportunity to unlock the full potential of retail in the UK, and the Prime Minister’s economic package provides a means to do so.
The fact that over fifty retail CEOs have come together on this issue should send a powerful message to Government.”
The letter comes the day after data showed that retail vacancy figures had risen to 10.3 per cent, the highest since January 2015.