A group of more than 50 bosses of retail businesses have called on the Chancellor to reform the business rates system in an effort to help boost the high street.
The group, including bosses from Asda and Boots have said that that the business rates system is outdated and broken, with rates having increased by 50% from the 1990s, leading to some retailers going out of business.
Business rates are a tax on premises used for business and are paid to local councils, although they are set by the Government. The group say that retailers account for 5% of the economy but pay 25% of the rates bill, causing a growing number of units to be left empty and vacancy rates to be at a four and half year high.
James Lowman, the chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, told the BBC’s Today programme: “It’s a really outdated system, it’s designed for a time when there only was physical retail, and people doing business from physical premises. That has been changing for a long time.
“The biggest thing is the way it’s a disincentive to investment – so if you take a retail shop and you improve it, you put in things that are not just important to the business, but are probably important to that community, like CCTV, solar panels perhaps, bringing in a cash machine, that sees your business rates bills significantly increase.
“Now surely it should be the other way round. We should be encouraging and incentivising investment, rather than penalising businesses for it.”