Two thirds of MPs back calls for a business rates freeze in 2013 to relieve pressures on retailers, according to results of a new poll released today.
Both Conservative and Labour MPs believe that a freeze would be beneficial, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) with over 20 per cent “agreeing strongly” with the calls.
MPs have shown support for the move ahead of this week’s highly anticipated Autumn Statement by Chancellor George Osborne, as the BRC revealed that three quarters of MPs believe that trading costs should be controlled to halt high street decline.
“A business rates freeze is essential to offer immediate relief, but there is much more still to be done if high streets are to go on providing jobs and services,” warned BRC Director General Stephen Robertson.
“Many of the issues we’ve campaigned about are now receiving much more attention. It’s re-assuring the importance of high streets is now widely recognised.”
In 2009, the BRC published a rescue plan relating to the ailing high street and its new assessment of town centres, ‘21st Century High Streets: What next for Britain’s town centres?’ outlines work that remains to be done to rejuvenate the UK retail sector.
Accessibility remains an issue on local high streets and the BRC noted that, despite a relaxation of Sunday trading laws over the course of the London Olympics, a change to night-time delivery rules which was trialled over the period is yet to be enforced to reduce daytime congestion.
Safety and security is also an ongoing issue with the cost of retail crime standing at £1.4 billion in 2010/11, while the cost of doing business must be controlled as more than half a billion pounds has been added to retailer’s bills since April last year.
Robertson called for a review of these issues, adding that town centre management must be a priority for high streets in need of “urgent re-evaluation”.
Robertson explained: “The Government can take credit for a high-profile review of high streets and for planning reforms that encourage investment.
“But continued weak consumer spending and rising business costs mean we’re seeing more and more empty shops.
“Some town centres are struggling to attract the shopper numbers needed to remain viable.
“If action isn’t taken the cost of that failure will be borne by communities across the country in the form of more boarded up premises and an acceleration of the downward spiral that’s gripping too many town centres.”