Labour warns against “meaningless tinkering” of business rates reforms ahead of Budget

Labour shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey warned the Commons against “another year of meaningless tinkering” from chancellor Philip Hammond amid pressure on the government to change business rates.

Long-Bailey said all major business representatives, including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) had called for reform and temporary relief for the high street.

Ahead of Hammond’s Budget announcement on October 29, the shadow secretary questioned whether any meaningful action will take place to help the embattled retail industry.

“Sadly, I’ve got a sense of deja vu – at the last Autumn Statement business groups warned of the devastating effect of business rates but in return we saw only minor tinkering.”

“Since then we’ve had a raft of store closures, with more than 100,000 retail jobs lost in the last three years – many businesses citing business rates as a root cause.

“(Business Secretary Greg Clark) has reportedly said adjusting business rates will be one way of recognising the value of our high streets, yet the chancellor said in July that there were no plans for reform – just what is going on?

“Will there be action or should we expect another year of meaningless tinkering from the chancellor?”

Clark responded by arguing that business rates do contribute to the high street, adding: “I’ve said before and I said today that I do think it is reasonable to reflect the contribution that high street businesses make to communities in the system of taxation.”

The comments come after Clark dropped hints at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference of upcoming changes to business rates.

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