Retail bosses call on Chancellor for ‘shoppers’ budget’

Leading CEOs from across British retail are today backing Phillip Hammond, the Chancellor, to deliver a “shoppers’ Budget” including decisive action in his upcoming Budget to relieve the business rates burden.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) says that without action in the Budget on Wednesday (22 Nov), retailers alone face a stark £270 million leap in their already onerous business rates bills next Spring, which could have significant implications for investment plans, including in new or refurbished stores.

This would be a positive first step towards a more financially sustainable and reformed rates system over the years ahead.

Almost one in 10 retail premises is vacant and ratepayers as a whole face a £1.2 billion leap in their rates bills from April.

In its Budget submission last month, the BRC recommended that the Chancellor freeze the business rates multiplier in 2018, and thereafter accelerate the switch from RPI to CPI indexation.

UK business rates, higher than anywhere in the OECD nations, are already a significant factor in discouraging local investment, the BRC said.

Speaking ahead of the Chancellor’s Budget, Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said: “There are few better yardsticks for Wednesday’s budget than the daily realities of local communities, shops and jobs.

“As a priority, the retail industry wants to see decisive action to enable British businesses to continue to invest in the needs of their customers and communities by stemming the near four per cent increase in business rates planned for April 2018.

“This would be a positive first step towards a more financially sustainable and reformed rates system over the years ahead.”

Christian Mazauric, chief executive Officer of B&Q, said: “The proposed increase to business rates ultimately affects retailers’ ability to deliver value to customers.  We need a pragmatic approach to business rates reform that reflects the dynamic state of the retail sector, as well as mounting costs and economic uncertainty. Not implementing the planned hike in rates and establishing robust and regular property revaluations will be two key steps to achieving that.”

Peter Aldis, chief executive officer of Holland and Barrett, said: “Retailers are grappling with profound changes in shopping habits, squeezed consumers and relentless rises in costs. Action in the Chancellor’s Budget to stop the inexorable cost rises and keep down the burden of business rates would increase retailers’ confidence about investing in new and refurbished shop premises, create jobs and help revive high streets and town centres.”

Wilf Walsh, chief executive officer of Carpetright, said: “The sheer scale of the expected increase in business rates bills next Spring would be a challenge even at the very best of times. That money could be much better spent investing in the needs of our customers.

“The prospect of further increases merely reinforce the need for rates to be capped in the year ahead and for a recasting of the rates system over the medium term so that it becomes modern, sustainable and fit for purpose in the 21st Century.”

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