Pressure on the Government to give retailers some form of business rate relief is building, with trade associations and political rivals piling in ahead of next month’s Autumn Statement.
More than 150 retailers are expected to call on the Chancellor George Osborne to freeze rates and reform the entire system, at a conference held today by Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
The ACS has already called for a 2% cap on rate increases, with chief executive James Lowman saying that under the current system retailers are reaching “a crisis point”.
He added: “The Chancellor must take action to reduce the spiralling costs that are deterring retailers from investing and creating more jobs, and this starts by reforming the business rates system to stop the annual unpredictable rates increases that have put many local shops in jeopardy.
At the same conference Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, is expected to say:“There is nothing to stop George Osborne matching our commitment to cut, then freeze business rates in 2015 and 2016 when he delivers his Autumn Statement in two weeks. If he does, we will support him.
“Rates are too high, and they are locked into a structure of annual increases which means that they are 16% higher than at the start of the economic downturn.”
The ACS follows the British Chamber of Commerce, which this weekend called on the Government to freeze rates for the next two years, as well as conducting an “extensive review and completely reform the business rates system by 2015”. Other trade associations such as the British Retail Consortium have campaigned for some time to have rates frozen, although is now calling for a 2% cap, arguing this is a more realistic demand.
Campaigners such as Bill Grimsey have launched petitions to flag the urgent need for reform
According to the Telegraph, Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond is understood to be considering a cut in business rates and an announcement is expected imminently.