Burden of business rates has “hidden human cost,” Co-op CEO says

Co-op CEO said an overhaul of business rates could quickly turn the tide in “failing town syndrome”
// Co-op CEO urges Chancellor to reform the business rates system
// Co-op found that towns with highest number of vacant shops have lowest “community wellbeing” scores
// Centre for Retail Research found that over 18,000 jobs have been lost since start of 2020

Co-op chief executive Steve Murrells has reportedly called on newly-appointed Chancellor Rishi Sunak to reform the business rates system ahead of the budget this week.

The chancellor was told the burden of business rates on the retail sector was having a “hidden human cost”.

Research by the Co-op found that towns with the highest number of vacant shops have the lowest “community wellbeing” scores as retailers struggle to keep stores open, The Times reported.


READ MORE: Co-op prepares to offload £2bn pension liabilities


The Centre for Retail Research also found that over 18,000 jobs have been lost since the start of the year and 1211 shops have closed.

High street footfall was down 7.8 per cent last month, the wettest month on record thanks to storms Ciara and Dennis.

However, the low figures are likely to continue due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Murrells said that an overhaul of business rates could quickly turn the tide in “failing town syndrome”.

In mid-February, more than 50 major retailers wrote to the government, urging ministers to overhaul business rates in the Budget.

The letter – signed by chief executives of retailers including Asda, B&Q, and Ann Summers, among others – said “transitional relief” has seen the industry forced to subsidise others to the tune of £543 million over the last three years.

Last week, representatives from organisations such as the BRC, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Association of Convenience Stores were among those to have urged Sunak to reform business rates.

The business leaders called for four “simple principles” that would ensure business rates are “fairer, more accurate and fit for purpose in the future”.

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