// Chancellor Sajid Javid shrugs off letter from 50-plus retail bosses calling for business rates reform
// Bosses from Asda, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Harrods, Iceland, F Hinds, and River Island called for “fundamental” reforms to the “broken” system
// Letter was coordinated by the BRC
Chancellor Sajid Javid has seemingly given the cold shoulder to more than 50 retail bosses who signed a letter urging the government to reform the “broken” business rates system.
Earlier this week, bosses from the likes of Asda, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Harrods, Iceland, F Hinds, and River Island wrote to Javid’s office calling for “fundamental” reforms to the taxes paid by businesses on the properties they occupy.
The letter, co-ordinated by the BRC, demanded four fixes that would address many of the challenges posed by business rates.
This includes a freeze in the business rates multiplier, which is set by the government and adjusted each year in line with inflation.
Other recommendations are fixing transitional relief as it currently forces many retailers to pay more than they should, introducing an “improvement relief” for ratepayers, and ensuring that the Valuation Office Agency is fully resourced to do its job.
According to Retail Week, while a Treasury spokeswoman did not comment on the demands made in the letter, it said: “Last month, the Prime Minister announced a £3.6 billion Towns Fund to support our high streets and town centres, allowing them to attract greater footfall, jobs and investment.
“The Chancellor will announce further details of the government’s policy programme in the coming weeks and months.”
The Treasury also said there was a review of business rates in 2016 but it did not eventuate to a consensus on alternatives.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said the lobby group would continue its campaign for reform.
She also re-iterated that there was “complete agreement that the business rates system as it stands is broken”.
“The fact there is no ready-made answer is part of the difficulty – that’s where government comes in,” she said.
“It needs to decide what it needs to incentivise. Does it want to disincentivise people with physical stores?”