Retailers fear cutbacks if rates rise


A majority of retail executives believe that job creation and investment in stores will fall if business rates increase next year, a survey released today reveals.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), 70 per cent of retail CEOs said that the anticipated rates rise would force them to make cutbacks, with 15 per cent fearing that they may be forced to close stores altogether.

In conjunction with the TaxPayers‘ Alliance, the BRC is today urging consumers worried about the potential damage to the sector to seek support from their own MPs.

Stephen Robertson, Director General of the BRC, said:”MPs who care about their constituencies will recognise the importance of their high streets and the need to take action to prevent more shops falling empty.

“They will want to avoid the blow to investment and job creation that chief executives tell us would come from a third successive huge hike in business rates.

“I urge MPs of all parties to encourage the Chancellor to recognise that retail has already paid more than its fair share in recent years and to freeze business rates in 2013.

“The Government should also honour its commitment to review the mechanism for setting rates increases and introduce a fairer, more sustainable formula for the future.”

In recent years, business rates have risen significantly, up 4.6 per cent in 2011 and 5.6 per cent this year and the latest Government plans would see these jump by a further 2.6 per cent.

Increases to date have added more than half a billion pounds to retailers‘ rates bills, said the BRC and the latest rise would see them hit with £175 million in additional costs.

Matthew Sinclair, CEO of the TaxPayers‘ Alliance, said: “Britain‘s high streets have been suffering in recent years and excessive business rates make it much harder for stores to survive and prosper.

“Businesses of all kinds struggle with rates as they are a major bill that they have to pay in good times and bad, whether or not they are making the money to pay it.

“Freezing business rates would be a great way of letting firms grow, prosper and create new jobs.

“At the TaxPayers‘ Alliance, we are very excited to be working with the British Retail Consortium to make the case that business rates should be frozen.

“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.”