Rishi Sunak has vowed to slash business rates this autumn during the Conservative leadership debate at the Darlington Hippodrome theatre.\r\n\r\nThe former chancellor committed to extending the current 50% reduction in his first budget as prime minister, saying that small retailers are the \u201cbeating hearts of all our communities\u201d.\r\n\r\nSunak said: \u201cParticularly those businesses in the hospitality and the retail sector, those on our high streets and our town centres, that is the number one tax they talked to me about when I was chancellor.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\u201cThat\u2019s why in the pandemic I did an enormous amount to help support that industry, because I know how important it is to our communities, the jobs that it provides. It\u2019s why this year I cut business rates for those businesses by 50% as chancellor, that\u2019s the biggest tax cut on business rates outside of coronavirus that we\u2019ve ever seen in this country.\u201d\r\n\r\nSunak warned Liz Truss\u2019s economic plans would see the Conservatives get \u201cabsolutely hammered\u201d at the next election, adding that supporting high streets would be \u201ctop of my mind\u201d when asked whether he would cut taxes on struggling shops.\r\n\r\nIt comes after the Retail Jobs Alliance, a coalition of retailers including Morrisons, Greggs and Tesco, urged both leadership candidates to pledge to cut business rates.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIn a letter, the group said companies are facing an increase in their business rates bill next April of about 10% from inflation alone.\r\n\r\nThe alliance said in the letter: \u201cThe next government must prioritise fundamental changes to the \u2018shops tax\u2019. A permanent reduction in business rates for all retailers, regardless of their size, would make a big difference to retailers\u2019 ability to invest more in shops and stores as well as to create jobs.\r\n\r\n\u201cYou have both talked of your intention to cut taxes in order to stimulate private investment. If taxes are to be cut, we think a reduction in business rates should be prioritised.\u201d\r\n\r\nIn his speech, Sunak said: \u201cIn the autumn we will need to set in place the business rates for the next few years and the top of my mind is always going to be supporting our high streets and town centres.\r\n\r\n\u201cBecause they are the beating hearts of all our communities, all our market towns, all our villages, everything. It\u2019s the Conservative thing to do to make sure our communities are strong. The best way to help them is through business rates. That\u2019s what I did as chancellor and that\u2019s what I\u2019ll do as prime minister.\u201d\r\n\r\nTruss has also pledged to reform business rates if she wins the Conservative leadership race.