High street retailers have banded together to call on the chancellor to suspend business rates bills as a form of immediate assistance against the impact of coronavirus.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak, the newly formed ‘Retailers Rates Action Group’ said the coronavirus pandemic was causing a decline in footfall and turnover of up to 50% in many towns and shopping centres.
Signatories including Arcadia, JD Sports and Primark have demanded an immediate suspension of business rates bills “until normal trading resumes”.
The letter said: ”As you will be fully aware, retail is a sector that is extremely exposed to the impact of the coronavirus, as we rely on our customers being able to access our premises directly. Will you confirm, that should the UK enter into a full lockdown, the government will instruct all local authorities in the UK, to consider premises as essentially being empty, and as such, having no rating liability until they reopen? Alternatively, please confirm that the existing provisions around occupations being ’prohibited by law’ will be made available so that ratepayers can claim appropriate relief.”
It also called for continued assistance when the UK “begins to return to normal”, in the form of removing downwards transition, moving to annual revaluations and lowering the Uniform Business Rate.
”Notwithstanding the immediate situation, retailers need to see their rates liabilities reduced urgently to a fairer level, or more businesses will fail, as they have done with alarming frequency over the last 2 years,” the letter reads.
”It is clear that the threat of coronavirus needs urgent and decisive action to be taken to support the retail sector in these unprecedented times. Without the support requested above, there will undoubtedly be a lot of retail business lost from our high streets and along with them, thousands of jobs will also be lost.”
High street fashion retailer signatories comprise Arcadia, Calzedonia UK, Clarks, Decathlon, Deichmann, Fat Face, Edinburgh Woollen Mill/Peacocks, Fenwicks, Footlocker, Frasers Group, Gap, H&M, JD Sports, Mango, Monsoon, Moss Bros, New Look, Primark, River Island, Russell & Bromley, Schuh, Seasalt, Superdry, Ted Baker, TFG Group, Urban Outfitters and White Stuff.
The government announced a business rates holiday for premises with a rateable value of under £51,000 for the 20/21 rates year in its budget earlier this month.
Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is expected to announce further business relief later today.