Conservatives risk losing votes across Red Wall without cut to business rates, former Northern Powerhouse Minister warns

The Conservatives risk losing voters across the Red Wall unless they slash business rates, a former Northern Powerhouse Minister has warned.

File photo dated 6/5/2020 of a ballot box at a polling station (PA)

Almost three-quarters of voters in the key parliamentary seats would back plans to cut the rates paid by high street shops to make it easier for them to keep their doors open to customers, according to new statistics which have been published today.

Jake Berry, the chairman of the influential Northern Research Group of MPs, said the “burden of tax on bricks and mortar retail is too high” and that reducing them would go some way towards the Government’s levelling up promise.

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“Without a cut in business rates at the Budget we risk losing support in our most marginal seats, including in the north and the Midlands,” the MP for Rossendale and Darwen added.

“Cutting rates would be a huge boost to our local communities and would show quick delivery of the central mission of this Government: levelling up.”

Former Conservative Minister and the chairwoman of the Blue Collar Conservatives, Esther McVey, has also backed the idea.

Ms McVey, the MP for Tatton, added: “levelling up must include ensuring taxes come down”.

A Deltapoll poll of 1,598 adults published today found that 66 per cent of people in the UK back a tax cut for shops with support increasing to 74 per cent for voters in those seats won by the Conservatives at the 2019 election.

The research also found that 62 per cent of those questioned agree that there are more empty or closed shops in their local area than before the pandemic, with only 10 per cent disagreeing.

Overall, people said they would be willing to pay more for their online shopping deliveries from Amazon and other retailers if physical shops could then benefit from a lower tax rate - with 35 per cent in favour versus 25 per cent against.

The figures come just weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos about the taxes that large internet firms pay in the UK.

On a trip to a UN meeting in New York, Mr Johnson told reporters: “When you sell many, many billions worth of goods in the UK, then you’ve got to expect to be taxed fairly in the UK.

“We need a digital sales tax. A proper way of making sure that we’re fairly taxing these enormous global businesses just as we tax high street shops.”

Mr Bezos made it known that he believes “it’s up to governments to come up with the right framework,” the Prime Minister claimed, and added the Government is trying to be “fair to the taxpayer, fair to other businesses in the high street and elsewhere”.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for the Government said: “We’ve provided extensive business rates relief worth £16bn to support businesses and the high street throughout the pandemic, with support continuing until March next year.

“We’re currently conducting a review of business rates which will conclude in the autumn.”