Insight

Retail business rates’ inequality raised once again

The British Retail Consortium has joined the growing chorus of voices that have welcomed the recent release of the Treasury Select Committee report on business rates.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson has been a long standing and very vocal critic of the current business rates’ system and she called the report unequivocally “excellent.”

Like other industry commentators she was quick to home in on what she called the key flaws of the “broken” business rates. To be fair the Report’s recommendations did seem to echo the BRC’s own calls to action that have been highlighted many times over recent months, even years.

In her response Dickinson said: “We strongly welcome this excellent report. The Treasury Select Committee has identified key flaws in our broken business rates system. The BRC has long been calling for many of the key recommendations.

“Indeed, fixing transitional relief, introducing an improvement relief to unlock investment, and better resourcing the Valuation Office Agency, were all the focus of a letter to the Chancellor signed by over fifty retailers in August. Any party that wants to support local high streets should commit to implementing the Committee’s reforms as a first step.”

The Report preceded yet another High Street name, Mothercare, calling in the administrators last week which only goes to underline the Committee’s call for urgent action. The BRC is also quick to point out that whilst retail accounts for 5% of the economy, it pays 25% of the business rates. Such imbalances can be seen in transitional relief – also identified by the Committee as needing reform – which takes £1.3bn from retailers and redistributes most of it to other industries.

The General Election will act as a distraction but also a unique opportunity to address some of these issues and we shouldn’t have to wait too long to see if business rates warrant any kind of mention in the main parties’ Manifestos due out this week.

If you missed the recommendations of the Treasury Select Committee you can find the Report here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201920/cmselect/cmtreasy/222/222.pdf

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