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UK’s independent retailers urge Hammond to listen to their solution to business rates reform, ahead of this week’s Budget

The long-delayed revaluation to business rates coming into effect on 1st April threatens the future of thousands of small retail businesses across the UK. This comes at the worst possible time with business uncertainty due to Brexit, National Living Wage and the depreciation of the pound, all affecting small retail businesses. The national association representing UK independent retailers, the British Independent Retailers Association, (bira) is offering the Chancellor a three-point plan solution to help the High Street and create a system fit for modern retailing.

With retail paying 22% of all the rates collected but contributing only 5% of the UK’s gross value added, there is a huge imbalance. bira’s solution gives independent retailers- the back bone of Britain- a fairer deal.

bira is recommending the Government takes immediate action on business rates to genuinely help our Great British High Street in the challenging and uncertain trading climate. bira recommends the following three points.

1. Government to issue an immediate retail-specific business rate relief payment of £1500 as seen in Wales. bira believes that the £12,000 threshold is too low, and a payment of £1500 would give an immediate relief, matching what Government have done for the past two years whilst something more radical is debated.

2. Change the £12,000 threshold to a £12,000 allowance, for all retail businesses. Prior to this revaluation, the average retail rate was £27,290.[1] A cut off at £12,000 and a small amount of taper to £15,000 doesn’t help the majority of small retail businesses. This would redress the current imbalance and benefit smaller retail businesses with a reduction in their bill, which could be the difference between closing or surviving in 2017 and beyond.

3. A fundamental reform of the rating system creating a completely new and fair rating structure for modern retailing. A fundamental review was promised by the last Chancellor in 2014.

Alan Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer at bira says: “In 2014 the Chancellor announced a full structural review of business rates– all that has happened is a change to the appeals system and sticking plasters to the antiquated and unfair structure. We need fundamental reform and quick. The Government have clearly stated their support of the Great British High Street in these tumultuous times but now they have to demonstrate it and Phillip Hammond needs to listen in advance of the Budget.

“Small retail businesses are already paying more on the high street than their larger competitors. Our research found that for every £1 per square metre on the high street, a multiple retailer pays 41p. Giving all retail businesses £12,000 off their business rates, would give small businesses a reduction in their bill, which could be the difference between closing or surviving the already difficult trading situation they find themselves in.

“A retail specific rates relief, as actioned by the Welsh Assembly would be a quick fix to help thousands of retailers who have been negatively affected by the revaluation, but we believe it is full reform is what is needed to redress the balance and create a fairer system for all.”

bira rates manifesto

[1] Jones Lang LaSalle research for bira March 2014