Business rates need reform says retail trade group

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), has called fundamental reform of business rates and is seeking a statement of intent that the Government plans to go beyond the steps it has already put in place to make the system fairer.

Publishing its submission to HM Treasury ahead of the Autumn Statement on December 3, the BRC outlines how commitment from Government now, along with immediate action to extend the one year cap, extension of small business rate relief, and of the discounts announced in the 2013 Autumn Statement, would help businesses to start to take action on job creation, high streets, and inward investment.

It also highlights "steps critical" to the success of the on-going review into the system’s administration including the removal of small businesses from the burden of rates and more regular valuations.

In a letter to the Chancellor, BRC director general Helen Dickinson says this would enable retailers, manufacturers and other industries affected by business rates to invest more in physical space and personnel, thus further supporting the economic recovery.

She added that over the last three years the increase in business rates for retail has outstripped the fall in retail investment. Enabling retail investment to return to pre-recession levels is the equivalent of over 40,000 jobs, she said.

Dickinson added: "The retail industry’s championing of the need for fundamental reform of business rates is being increasingly amplified by industries as diverse as steel and car manufacturing and some of the country’s largest property companies. This is a strong indication that the time is right to set out a roadmap to fundamentally reform the system and make it fit for purpose for the 21st century."

The BRC submission also highlights the need to improve infrastructure for business by tackling "excessive" fees charged by banks to process card payments, known as interchange fees.

Dickinson added: "We welcome the fact that Government has placed great emphasis on building business for the future, in supporting small companies and building much needed infrastructure. Going a step further by following the lead of other Member States and introducing domestic interchange fee caps would bring great benefit to consumers."

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